Soccer And Dictatorships: A Love Story

Football, the last symbol of Iraqi unity, helped society get through a horrific string of decades, with more ominously looming. Huthyfa Zahra, a modern football artist said, “During the wars, in the nineties, there were bombs above us, and we were playing the streets. Because we didn’t have anything to do.” This powerful statement portrays the atmosphere of isolation felt in Iraq and football‘s power as an outlet of expression. Zahra sees the 2003 toppling of Hussein as a catharsis for the game in the “Cradle of Man” as he said, “We are much better now, because the players play without fear now. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can’t play.” Football was oppressed by the regime, as the people were, but now both have been left to prosper. From 1980-2001, Iraq’s winning percentage was fifth best amongst all FIFA competitors, at a staggering .692 rate, outdoing superpowers England and Spain. In 2007 the “Lions” won the Asian Cup and finished 4th at the 2008 Athens Olympics. Recently progressing in World Cup Qualification for 2014, under Brazil legend Zico, it is likely that the “Land Between Two Rivers,” could lift the Juelz Rimet trophy by 2030.

The Italian regime, Franco’s fascist state, and Saddam’s dictatorship exemplify the essential effect of football on society and politics alike. Just months ago, a riot at a match in Egypt resulted in the death of more than 90 spectators. The “ultras,” (hooligans to Americans) attacked a group of fans as a result of political disagreement, amongst the newly liberated nation. Sport is often dismissed by those in the academic realm. Intellectuals fail to see the importance of athletics in relation to political and social events. The styles of play reflect the atmosphere of leadership and the culture of the period, thus the discipline of Mussolini’s side, nationalization of Franco‘s Madrid, and free-flowing play of the post-Hussein era. Commentary phrases “Simply sensational,” and “Absolutely brilliant,” not only describe ingenious goals, but also define football’s ultimate effect on human history.

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