I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said hat today has been as exciting as one of those election days in Baghdad. Our national soccer team is playing for the Asian cup for the first time in its history. By comparison this is as if the American team is playing for the cup of Copa America against the team of Brazil or Argentina! But of course here in Iraq we care way more about soccer than Americans do. No offense meant of course!
The government had already announced shorter work hours in all government offices, including the parliament, for today so that people can go home early enough to watch the match.
I went out in the early afternoon to bring some food and gasoline for the generator as I had only a few liters left in the generator's tank and I didn't want to take chances.
I found that small crowds have gathered around gas vendors, obviously the demand is higher today and no one seems willing to miss part of the match because of a stupid gallon of gas. As a result gas price rocketed to more than 4 dollars a gallon; that's a 30 % increase from just two days ago.
Curfew was imposed at 4 in the afternoon and will last until tomorrow morning but in fact the streets were going to be empty even without a curfew.
Everyone seemed in a hurry buying what they need to before they all go home to sit in front of the TV sets.
I returned home, filled all three generators with gasoline just in case one of them fails us, which is something that happens quite often. I also put several cans of beer in the fridge and brought some Pringles chips. The ultimate snack when watching soccer, or pretty much everything!
The good surprise came at 4:30 when the state electricity came after two days of
absence; I assume it's a small "gift" from the government and the electricity department.
4:35, the match begins!
The first half (45 minutes plus 3 minutes of added time) showed clear Iraqi supremacy but it also showed the level of tension between the two teams. There was a lot of rough playing and as a result 5 yellow cards were shared by Iraqi and Saudi players. Actually it's well known that Arab teams become more aggressive when playing against another Arab team reflecting the kind of "brotherhood" among Arabs!
So, the first half ended without scoring any goals and the result remains 0-0.
I used the half time break to write these few notes and now I must put the laptop aside and go back to pop another can of beer and watch the second half.
Many Iraqis said they will be celebrating their team regardless of the result, so tonight there will be joy no matter what.
No, the joy is not for "no matter what"….Our team has just won the Asian cup for the first time in our soccer history. The win came through a magnificent goal by the head of our heroic forward Younis Mahmoud at the 71st minute of the match..
Our team ruled the game by all standards; in defense, midfield and attack our players proven that they are the best…they are now the masters of Asian soccer!
Today is definitely the happiest day for Iraqis in years. Tears of joy mixed with prayers for hope on the faces of millions of Iraqis…Words truly fail me and I can't describe the feeling so please pardon me if the post doesn't sound coherent; I hear the cheering and music outside although the bullets of celebration keep falling on the ground and roofs here and there. But no one seems to worry about that, the moment is so great that fear has no place in the hearts of the millions of fans, neither from bullets nor from crazy suicide bombers who tried to kill our joy last week.
Our players, tonight our heroes, learned that only with team work they had a chance to win.
May our politicians learn from the players and from the fans who are painting a glorious image of unity and national pride, and let the terrorists know that nothing can kill the spirit of the sons of the immortal Tigris and Euphrates.
The fear is gone, the curfew is ignored, tonight Iraq knows only joy...