Thursday, 26 July 2007

Will football unite a divided country?

One of the fairytale stories to come out of the 2007 Asian Cup is that of Iraq (even if it came at the expense of Australia). They have just reached the final after defeating South Korea in a penalty shootout and will play Saudi Arabia in an all Gulf State final. This is an amazing story considering the turmoil that is currently engulfing their country and the fact that they haven't played a home game for over twenty years and rely on the generosity of neighbouring countries for "home" games. It would be nice to think that maybe that on one occasion that Shi'ite Muslims and the minority Sunni Arabs will unite as one behind their national team as they play probably the most important match during this troubled time. After their amazing win this was the case as both Shi'ites and Sunnis took to the streets to celebrate their win over South Korea, both united in the joy of seeing their national team do well. Even in the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan even waved Iraqi flags were waved in a rare display of national unity. Kurds normally view the Iraqi flag as an Arab symbol. However, it was sad this joy was exploited as two suicide bomb attacks killed 50 Iraqis whilst they were out in the streets celebrating the semi-final win.

I am looking forward to the final between these two neighbouring countries and regardless of the outcome (although I do hope Iraq wins) I hope that for 90 or even 120 minutes the Shi'ites and Sunnis put aside their differences to urge on their national team. Maybe it will be first step in a reconciliation between these peoples, that may ultimately bring about peace in this country in turmoil. But maybe, this is too much to ask of twenty three men who play with such passion for their national team as we must remember that they are just playing a game.


Blogger Hamish said...

Agreement from me Neil. I'm of the view that we are yet to see the extent of soccer's power over world events, and I think tonight's match might prove to remembered in football history. That's not to say that this game will in itself have much of a long term impact, but I think we'll get a glimpse of what a world game is capable of politically. Soccer is a powerful social force.

29 July 2007 at 09:50  

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