Today the footballing world was stunned by what can be achieved by 22 men full of pride and determination. By "the footballing world" I mean the 95% of the globe that is obsessed with soccer, and the 22 men I'm referring to are the players on the Iraqi national team. Today Iraq pulled off on of the biggest upsets in soccer history, and achieved an incredible and historic victory by overcoming Saudi Arabia in the Asian cup final.
First, let me give you some background. The Asian Cup is a gigantic tournament that pits all the nations of Asia, from Lebanon to Japan (and now including Australia) against each other in order to crown the continent's best soccer team. Despite a better parity in quality than that found in Europe, the tournament is always dominated by South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Iraq has never placed better than fourth, and that was long before the current situation over there began (in the 70s I believe). Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has won the tournament three times, and looked the favourites this year as well. The Iraqi captain, Younis Mahmoud, broke Saudi hearts with his excellently controlled headed goal late in the game to secure victory for Iraq.
It is very difficult for me to fully express the shock, and joy, I feel at seeing the Iraqi team overcome difficulties that would destroy most men. All 22 players have lost loved ones in the ongoing war in their homeland, and the team was forced into exile a few years ago due to security reasons. To see them triumph now is not only a victory for soccer and its ability to bring people together in times of hardship, but also a victory for humanity. These men have proved that even in the midst of pain and fear, it is possible to do great things.
Please keep these men and their families in your thoughts and prayers, along with everyone else who has been affected by war, violence, death, and pain. Ciao, e grazie.