In a war-torn country like Iraq, the re-building of a soccer team was one of the few bright lights for the populace, a rallying point — particularly when the team won the Asian Cup last year by beating Saudi Arabia. Now, that group of players and rallying point for a country is in limbo, as the Iraqi Football Association has disbanded the team and fired its coach Adnan Hamad.
(The Iraqi team is likely in a much less jovial mood than shown in this Asian Cup photo.)
The team missed the final qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with a loss to Qatar on Sunday, and part of the IFA’s reasoning behind the disbanding is a need for more government cash in order to lure foreign coaching talent.
But the ASSOCIATED PRESS says many in the country see the disbanding as the outgrowth of the country’s sporting associations being taken down:
Many Iraqis believe that the soccer team was demoralized by a bitter fight between the government and the country’s Olympic committee and sports federations. The Iraqi government last month dissolved the Iraqi Olympic Committee, alleging corruption. The International Olympic Committee responded by suspending Iraq’s national Olympic body for “political interference.”
So, after that rush of competition and victory last year, Iraqi athletes probably won’t be competing in Beijing and it’s not known when (or if) their soccer team will be put back together again. The soccer team had to be nomadic due to the violence; it trained in Qatar and other Arab countries. Now, they appear to be victims of political infighting back in their home country.