3-0 Korea

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Sarah and I are admiring the Iraqi defense and Korea’s annoying inability, once they’ve got the ball in the box, to come anywhere near an actual goal. At one point we become so frustrated that we start rooting for Iraq because dammit, this is ridiculous. Someone score! Problem is, every time Iraq gets the ball into that box, which probably has a name that I don’t know it, there is no one there to score. I think “You there, number 5 with the red shoes! Ruby slippers! A little faster!”

Which makes this quote from a 2003 story in the Christian Science Monitor all the more heartbreaking:

Nevertheless, Hashim believes Iraq’s soccer renaissance has only just begun. “We love soccer like the Brazilians, it’s probably the only thing those two nations have in common,” he says. “With luck, in three or four years we’ll be primed for World Cup qualification again.”

Will have to work on offense.

Sarah leans over, “But imagine –what are you doing there if you’re not playing soccer ?”

Manajid says, if he were not playing soccer he would “for sure” be fighting as part of the resistance.

Sports Illustrated, 2004

Still, it’s not that easy to disconnect these guys from this game. To stop admiring their bodies while they exchange jerseys at the end of the game and think of them as citizens of their country. Do the players bring their socio-political baggage onto the field? I can’t imagine what the Korea/Japan game must have been like.

•Last month, gunmen attacked former Iraqi national soccer team standout Alla Ahmed. The assassination attempt fell short, but he was injured in the attack near a mosque in Basra.

•Last September, uniformed gunmen stormed the home of national soccer team player Ghanim Ghudayer and snatched him. He remains missing.

•Last July, national soccer team coach Akram Ahmed Salman and his assistant resigned amid unending death threats. His two predecessors quit for the same reason.

Kansas City Star, 2007

And still they play.

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