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Old 08-18-2004, 08:55   #1
DunbarFC
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Return to reason: Iraqi soccer advances to quarterfinals

This I think is the story of the Olympics. Sort of makes the "Dream Team" seem rather small and petty by comparison

Good luck today against Morocco boys


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Return to reason: Iraqi soccer advances to quarterfinals
A unified team of Shiites, Sunnis, and one Kurd focuses on their opportuntities

COMMENTARY
By Sally Jenkins
Columnist
The Washington Post
Updated: 4:05 a.m. ET Aug. 16, 2004


ATHENS, Greece - The Olympic Games are supposed to be about the relationship of muscles to morality, as Baron Pierre de Coubertin would say. "Physical exercise holds, in a certain manner, the fundamental basis for a means of ethical conduct," he wrote. Actually, more often than not the modern Olympics aren't about that at all, but about doping fraud, political infighting, and giving McDonald's and General Electric a foothold in China. But the Iraqi soccer team reminds us that the Olympics can still be good for something . . . good.

At their best, the Olympic Games are like taking a picture of the world as you'd like it to be. On Sunday, an ambitious and united Iraqi team embodied the reason we gather for the Games, and why they can still be a powerful instrument. As the Iraqis advanced to the Olympic quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica at Karaiskaki Stadium, they seemed a balm for the problems of their occupied and war-fractured yet prideful country. This is what it means to be an Iraqi sportsman: Your successes are enveloped in sadness, and yet you have a deep craving for triumph.

Iraqi partisans made up the vast majority of the 12,183 in Karaiskaki Stadium, and they began lining up at the gates two hours before the game, sustaining a joyous constant chant of "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq." They passed out flags, shared mass hugs, shook beer bottles and sprayed themselves with foam. Provoked by an unpopular decision from the referee, they pelted the field with bottles, and generally had to be quelled every few minutes by stadium security, which seemed reluctant to ruin their good time.


With each of Iraq's two goals, hosts of fans vaulted the balustrades and rushed the field to tackle the players and kiss them on their faces.

"They have always been under a torturing dictatorship, they have been through wars, so this is a moment for them to be a little crazy," said Ahmed Samarrai, president of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, as he stood congratulating members of their delegation in the stadium tunnel after the game.

The Iraqis, crisp in their whites with green stripes against the soft green pitch, were a unified team of Shiites and Sunnis, and one Kurd, Harwa Mulla Mohammed, who was the hero of the night. He broke a scoreless tie in the 67th minute with a left-footed rocket, and then assisted on another goal in the 72nd minute, setting up Mahdi Karim for his header. Invariably, the Iraqis are asked to say what a soccer victory means to a team that a short time ago reportedly faced torture if it lost or angered Saddam Hussein's son, Uday, who ran the Olympic committee. But the members of the delegation were reluctant to look over their shoulder at horrors.

"Rather than dwell on the past they want to focus on opportunities in front of them," said their head coach, Adnan Hamad. "Our job is to help rebuild the country to what it can be."

The International Olympic Charter, an admittedly impracticable document, reads as follows. "The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

But the Olympic Games don't really represent a truce, as we learned once again, when an Iranian athlete reportedly refused to compete against an Israeli. Two-time world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili, the world judo champion in 2001 and 2003, carried the Iranian flag at Friday's Opening Ceremonies and was to meet Israel's Ehud Vaks in the first round. Iranian athletes have refused to compete against Israelis in previous competitions; Iran does not recognize Israel and bans any contact with the Jewish state. After Thursday's draw, the Iranian press agency IRNA quoted Miresmaeili as saying, "I refused to play against an Israeli rival to sympathize with the oppressed Palestinian people."

On Sunday after the weigh-in, however, spokesman Michel Brousse said the federation was told by the president of the Iranian judo delegation "the rumors were not true" that Miresmaeili refused to compete. However, Miresmaeili will not be in the competition after failing to make weight. The International Judo Federation is investigating.

The Olympic charter is an impossible goal and it's too much to expect of athletics to solve the seemingly intractable problems of Iraq. But the striving for it is the most important thing that will happen here during these two weeks. In the midst of broken streets, unthinkable suffering, and unrelenting suppression, Iraq has fashioned something beautiful, nonviolent and reconciled, a team of swift and elegant-footed young men. That's what we're all here for, and it's the only real reason to come to an Olympics. If Iraq can do this, then just maybe the seemingly endless fighting will end.

"Many people are fighting in many provinces," said Hussein Mohammed, head of the Iraqi soccer federation. "We sent a letter to stop the fighting, and stop the blood. We call on all Iraqis to respect this victory, and to respect this tournament, and to use it as a platform to ceasefire, and to be peaceful in what they are doing, and to come back from the brink."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5716902/
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Old 08-18-2004, 12:37   #2
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Thumbs up

I'm rooting for them. I hope they go all the way.
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Old 08-18-2004, 12:42   #3
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Originally posted by Sdiver
I'm rooting for them. I hope they go all the way.
Me too.

They ARE the underdogs, and IMHO, a victory by them will pay dividends in the psyche of the Iraqi people.

TR
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Old 08-18-2004, 13:17   #4
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Well the boys are down 2-1 in the 78th minute

However they are sitting pretty atop their group so they will advance

The bad news is that they most likely will face Argentina in the quarterfinals

But I wouldn't count these guys out
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Old 08-19-2004, 07:59   #5
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Well thanks to the odd results Iraq manages to avoid Argentina and will face Austraila

Iraq managed to win their group so they get the runner up of Group C

I predict an easy move to the semifinal for them. Then it depends on who they draw and if their keeper can stay hot

And to think had Saddam still been in power, none of this would ever have happened................


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Wednesday's results mean that Group B winner Paraguay will meet South Korea at Thessaloniki in the quarterfinals; Group D winner Iraq faces Australia at Iraklion, Crete; Group A winner Mali meets Italy at Athens' Karaiskaki Stadium and Group C winner Argentina, the gold medal favorite, faces Costa Rica at Patras.

The games will be played on Saturday with the semifinals scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24. The final is in the Olympic Stadium Aug. 28.
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Old 08-19-2004, 08:40   #6
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GO IRAQ!
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Old 08-21-2004, 11:44   #7
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Thumbs up On to the semi-finals!

Hope they do go all the way!

Iraq reach Olympic semi-finals
By Alastair Himmer
http://sports.yahoo.com/oly/news?slu...ters&type=lgns


ATHENS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Iraq's war-weary footballers extended their fairytale Olympic run with a 1-0 victory over Australia on Saturday, giving them a chance to make history.


Qatar-based midfielder Emad Mohammed struck with a spectacular overhead kick in the 64th minute to take Iraq into the semi-finals of the men's soccer tournament.


Cash-strapped Iraq, whose only previous Olympic medal was a weightlifting bronze at the 1960 Rome Games, face either Paraguay or South Korea for a place in the final.


Paraguay and South Korea play later on Saturday.


Cheered on by a vociferous section of supporters chanting "Iraq is back", on the Greek island of Crete, the win provided further comfort for the people of the war-torn country.


Iraq survived a scare two minutes into the second half when Anthony Danze stabbed the ball home from close range for the "Olyroos" only to be ruled offside.


But Iraq hung on to reach the semi-finals, a remarkable achievement for a team that shares a training pitch with grazing sheep in Baghdad.
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Old 08-24-2004, 13:59   #8
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Ohhh...so close.

Iraq lost to Paraguay 3-1

But Iraq does have a chance at a Bronze. They play Italy next.

Damn.
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Old 08-24-2004, 20:55   #9
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Italy? Hmmm... 4th isn't so bad.

But then again, Iraq shouldn't have had a prayer against Portugal.
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