Just when you think there might be a glimmer of hope in Iraq, things are brought back down to reality. Iraq's Asian Cup soccer championship was supposed to be a high point for the nation, and a reason to celebrate. Think again. Last week insurgents killed at least 50 soccer fans celebrating the win, and to add insult to injury even official team celebrations are botched.
The ruler of Dubai threw a giant affair in the Iraqi soccer team's honor, full of confetti and amongst thousands of fans. Everything was great...until the wrong anthem was played.
Some players and members of the Iraqi delegation walked out in protest when the organizers put on Saddam's anthem instead of the country's new one, according to Bassam al-Husseini, a representative of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who flew with the team.So what happened? The snafu was blamed on the technician in charge of the music. He simply was unaware that there was a new anthem. Oh boy. Somehow I assume that this person is now in the category of "former technician." That's no way to treat your visitors, especially one's you're trying to honor.
After Saddam's overthrow, new Iraqi authorities selected "Mawtini," a folk tune popular throughout the Arab world, to replace the old anthem which glorified Saddam's Baath party.
Somehow I think all will be forgotten, as the team was treated pretty darn well. Dubai's leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum made sure of it, and I'm not talking about confetti here. It would have been a long flight flying in coach from Indonesia to Dubai, so al-Maktoum sent his private jet for them. He also gave the team $5.45 million in cash in honor of their victory. This should have made Iraq's leaders feel really good, as it dwarfed the $10,000 they gave to each player.
In Dubai, the players lamented they could not celebrate at home, but Hussein Saeed, head of the Iraqi Football Federation, said they drew comfort from being among "brothers," referring to the large numbers of Iraqi expatriates living in the Gulf.Amidst all of the carnage and despair going on in Iraq, it is nice to see that they've got something to cheer about. And Iraq's first Asian Cup victory sure is something.
"We are just so happy to bring a smile to the faces of all our countrymen," said Iraqi team captain Younis Mahmoud, who scored Iraq's only goal in Sunday's finals.