Monday, 30 July 2007

Reflections on an Asian Cup final

The 2007 Asian Cup concluded last night with the final between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the fairytale was completed with the Iraqis deservedly 1-0 winners. They dominated vast periods of the match and only their poor finishing let them down. The Saudis never looked like threatening the Iraqi goal and the closest they came was in the dying minutes of the match when their opponents were thinking more about the full time whistle than the game at hand. The only goal of the game came from a powerful header by Younis Mahmoud, the Iraqi captain, from a well taken corner in the 72nd minute. Mahmoud was subsequently given the title of player of the tournament at the conclusion of the match, probably not only for his goal scoring tally but also for his leadership abilities in leading a team that is made up of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds, with little preparation to the title of champions of Asia. As the final whistle blew and I stumbled off to bed I tried to imagine what would be happening in Iraq. These people who are suffering so much would be delirious with pleasure and for a short while would forget their troubles as they celebrate as one nation their first Asian Cup title. But the harsh reality would soon set back in as a car bomb killed six people and injured twelve in central Baghdad on Monday, with football having for a brief moment given them some hope, that was sadly and most brutally taken away. It was sad to note that this team will not be able to share this win that brought so much joy to their fellow countrymen because they fear for their lives if they return to their homeland. These 2007 Asian Cup champions are now also on the lookout for a new coach, as Jorvan Vieira stood down after the final saying that he could now continue with the role under such pressure.

Well down Iraq, champions of Asia, we look forward to meeting you again in four years time in Qatar, hopefully under much better circumstances.


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