Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

End of an Era

So, ‘Ammu Baba has died. He was a soccer player and coach who had attained the highest rungs of Iraqi celebrity. I can’t pinpoint when exactly were his glory days, but his colorful personality, and reputation for on-the-field profanity, turned him into a media star of the past few decades. For a while in these last few years, it seemed that there was an Ammu Baba interview every other week on an Iraqi satellite channel. And not only that, but politicians would trip over each other claiming to paying his medical expenses abroad. Then there's the other narrative that the Iraqi state had failed to take care of a 'national treasure' or the 'sheikh of the trainers' as he's been called.

As a kid, I used to be confused by his name which translated into ‘Uncle Father’. It was much later that I realized that ‘Ammu was short for ‘Amanuel (‘Emanuel’, he’s an Assyrian Christian, born in Anbar Province).

Baba was the Sistani of Iraq's cultish sports world, and soccer fanatics are out in full force marching in mourning processions. He died yesterday in Dehok at the age of 65. It is alleged that he’ll be buried at the Sha’ab Stadium (…Iraq’s principal soccer field) since that was his last request. I think Baghdad just gained one more shrine.


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