Asia Cup Replaces Koran in Resolving Tribal Disputes
I love this story from the Kuwait News Agency that was published two days ago (Arabic):
The deputy head of the Iraqi Soccer Federation Najih Hmoud said today that the Asia Cup for 2007 that the Iraqi team had won contributed to resolving a tribal dispute over agricultural land that ran 27-year and claimed tens of lives. Hmoud clarified that one of the officials from the province of Najaf had called together the chiefs and notables of the Fatla and Ghazalat tribes to settle the dispute over two days but to no avail.
Adding, “but a delegation of mediators arrived on the [third day] to the Ghazalat tribe carrying with it the Asia Cup in order to resolve matters anew, and [succeeded] in getting both sides to compromise for the sake of the Asia Cup.”
I don’t know how authentic the story is, but it’s heartwarming anyway. Tribes usually settle disputes by taking an oath on the Koran, but in this instance the Asia Cup has been transformed by Iraq’s soccer fetish into a new, sanctified national totem!
I had written a column for this month’s Prospect Magazine that began with these paragraphs:
“I will take the cup to Thawra City, I mean Sadr City, I will take it to Kadhimiya, to Adhamiya, to Dora; I will take it to Basra, to the north, to Mosul. Even if they kill me, I am a willing sacrifice for [my people].” Said the 24 year-old Younis Mahmoud, captain of Iraq’s national football team, to Iraq’s official television station Al-Iraqiya, during a snap interview in Dubai, following Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup in late July. Mahmoud is a Sunni Arab who was born in the oil-rich town of Dibis, northeast of Kirkuk. He grew up among other Sunnis Arabs, Shia and Sunni Turkomans, Kurds and Christian Assyrians—a diversity reflected in the team he led to Iraq’s first major football victory.
After Iraq defeated South Korea in a semi-final penalty shootout—unleashing massive jubilation among Iraqis both inside and outside the country and raising cautious hopes of bringing the cup back to Baghdad—Iraqi singers began to record songs for the final, and the ditty that became the team’s anthem began with the words, “Have you ever seen a player on the fields play while pressing his hand to his wound?”
I still can’t get enough of this song: