Iraq's fairytale win at the Asian Cup soccer tournament last
month has inspired support for the war-torn nation and given the
country's Olympic prospects a shot in the arm.
The unlikely victory, the first Asian Cup the beleaguered state
has won, has raised hopes it will win its first gold medal in
Beijing next August.
"I am looking forward to the Beijing Olympic Games," Iraqi
Olympic Committee director general Tiras Odisho Anwaya said in
"It is our fourth Olympic Games. I hope we will have the best
team for the Beijing Games and also for the future
"Everyone who wins a gold in Beijing will be awarded US$15,000
by our committee. Of course there will be other awards from
"But it is more important for as many Iraqi athletes to take
part in the Olympics."
Iraq's surprising soccer success was widely hailed and welcomed
in China, where companies offered financial support as a reward for
the team's tremendous spirit in the face of great adversity.
Leading sportswear maker Peak recently announced it had formed a
partnership with the Iraqi Olympic Committee to support the
country's team ahead of next year's event.
"Every Iraqi who comes to Beijing is a hero even without
winning," Anwaya said.
"Had the security situation been better, and players not been
bothered by old equipment or few places to train, Iraqi athletes
would have played even better.
"But I am so glad lots of people are supporting the team in
"Support from Peak company covers all our sports players and
will definitely benefit our Olympic teams greatly."
Peak will provide uniforms and fund training venues and the
purchase of equipment that currently lacked by Iraqi athletes.
And Peak was not the only sponsor to come out of the woodwork
following Iraq's shock Asian Cup glory.
The team, who defied the odds to beat four-time champions Saudi
Arabia in the final, was awarded 20 million dirhams (US$5.45
million) by United Arab Emirates vice-president and Prime Minister
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Iraqi soccer players were forced to train and play qualifiers in
neutral countries, while their coach, Brazilian coach Jorvan
Vieira, had just two months to mould a team.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was at the Gelora Bung National
Stadium for the final, said Iraq's achievement had inspired
millions and was proof of sport's unique power to unite people in
the most desperate circumstances.
Iraq's only Olympic medal was a weightlifting bronze at the 1960
Iraqis competed in seven sports at the 2004 Olympics, including
weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, taekwando, swimming, track and
field and soccer.
But it was the Olympic soccer team that stunned the world when
it finished fourth after losing the bronze medal to Italy in a
This was a phenomenal result for the surprise starter after it
cobbled together a team amid conflict at home that included a
struggle to rebuild an Olympic committee.
(China Daily August 17, 2007)