FIFA U17 World Cup: Glory for goodness - Iraq look to do well to help turmoil-hit people back home
For a country that for so long has been in turmoil with political unrest and war-like situation, Iraq's U17 national team seemed firmly focused on the task ahead so that they can do their bit for their country as they took to training at the SAI Complex in Kolkata. From their knowledge of India to their hopes going into their first match on Sunday, the Iraqi players seemed the right mix of excited and focused as they interacted before training began.
"I know India is a country that loves cricket more. I also know a lot of Indian film stars. Saif Ali Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan are my favourites and I really love watching them," said midfielder and captain of the side Saif Khalid when asked about his interest in Indian movies. The midfielder, who last watched the Shah Rukh Khan starer 'Raees', said that Bollywood movies dubbed in Arabic are quite popular in Iraq. Brimming with both confidence and passion, Khalid was quite vocal about how the team is very focused as well as excited about playing the FIFA World Cup.
Iraq, who played in India last year, believe it is easier for them to adapt to the humidity of the city of Kolkata. The 2016 AFC U16 champions, have been training together for almost one and a half months before the World Cup and are very optimistic going into the tournament.
They have their hopes heavily pinned on star striker and number 7 Mohammed Dawood, who was awarded the best player and top scorer in last year's tournament. At the tender age of 16, Dawood has already been compared to his idol Younis Mahmoud, who led the Iraqi side to the Asian Cup in 2007. "It's an honour to be compared to someone like Younis Mahmoud and I will do my best to bring similar glory to my nation again," said the striker. When asked about Sunday's opponents Mexico, he added, "The Mexico team is a very good team and we are prepared for them. We see everyone as an equally challenging opponent and this is the first time we play at such a big stage so we will try to do our best."
The Iraqi people have long been crippled by the warlike scenario in their nation, but in spite of the conditions these young footballers have risen above the problems and hardships."Despite the situation in Iraq, football is the number one sport in the country. It unifies our people and helps us in the betterment of the nation," said captain Khalid, who believes that the beautiful game could once again be the solution to the problems in their homeland, unifying people into coming together to support them, thus wants to do their best and go as far as possible in the competition
Iraq are in Group F and start their campaign against Mexico on Sunday.