Iraq wins Asian Cup

A united Iraqi soccer team wins the Asian Cup.

Especially interesting is that the Iraqi victory was celebrated by waving the Iraqi flag in Kurdistan. The Iraqi team had Kurds, Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs. And the Yugoslav national team had a successful World Cup in 1990, making it to the quarterfinals... and broke up anyway. Here's a fascinating video on that era - haven't finished watching it myself. Most of it is in Serbo-Croat but it's subtitled in French with occasional English. But really the atmosphere is what you pick up on - Croats chanting "We love Croatia, let's go massacre some Serbs" and Serbs singing songs about massacring Croats. Yet 3 or 4 years earlier, these fans were all cheering for the same team.

And a hilarious (black humor) quote passed on from a friend of mine:
Ellen: Holy crap, Iraq won the Asian cup!
Andy: I know! You know why? Because we didn't try to help them with it.

Update: New Yorker in DC also has a post on the victory.


NYkrinDC said...

I agree with you. In my earlier post I cited Tony Karon from Time, who argued that:

Soccer cannot bridge political divides that are based not simply on whether Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds can get along and pass the ball to one another, but on how power and control of territory and resources is to be arranged among them. As beautiful a moment as Iraq's shared celebration may have been, the danger remains that they're less akin to Ivory Coast's example of rapprochement than they are to the legendary Christmas 1914 soccer match on World War I's Western Front. That game, played between German and British soldiers in no man's land amid a remarkable unofficial yuletide truce, expressed the shared humanity among the combatants of both sides. And then they went back to slaughtering each other for another four years.

I had the Yugoslavia example very much in mind. The difference in Iraq, is that people so far have not been chanting "Go Shiites or Sunnis" but rather "Go Iraq!"

As an aside, the quote you have is hilarious, if sad.

Adrian said...

NYrinDC - thanks for the comment. One of my college professors used the onion metaphor with identity - you can always peel back more layers. The Iraqi identity will never go away, but in the current security and political situation it cannot become ascendant. The Sunni and Shia Arabs both see themselves as Iraqi and the rightful controllers of Iraq, so it is no great surprise that they root for Iraq. However the Kurds don't want to be Iraqi at all - if they had their own Kurdish football team (they already have their own FA) I don't think there would be much competition between the Iraqi and Kurdish teams.

The 1914 match brings up a lot of points, if any of them still make sense in the morning maybe I will post.

NYkrinDC said...

I don't disagree. I think that the absence of an effective unitary state, allows for people to seek alternate identities that can more effectively protect their interests. In the absence of an effective national government, Iraqis are falling back on tribe, ethnic and religious groupings. Once you define who you are, by virtue of that decision you define who you are not. Add a few spoilers, like Sadr and Zarqawi in that environment and you get a lot of violence and division.

My point with regard to Iraq's soccer victory was was more that it at least showed Iraqis what was possible, maybe even reminded some of them that they were indeed part of the same country. That said, yes, I acknowledge and agree with your assessment. Soccer cannot a country make, at least in the absence of security and in the presence of so much violence and sectarianism.