ANYONE who's been following this blog would have no difficulty finding out that I am as optimistic about Iraq as a dead skunk on the side-road, all the books that I read, all the things I see and hear everyday, from friends, from TV, from parents, all serves to confirm my deductions about the future of the country-to-have-been. You could only imagine my own shock as I found myself trying hard as a I can to resist swelling tears as I was watching the Iraqi team win the semifinal on a penalty shot against South Korea, looking up, I realized something, none of the players were smiling...
They were all crying too.
It was magical, as if they were all thinking the same thing as I am. This is not a regular victory, this is a bittersweet one, a deeper, more meaningful one. To me, that was a 'born-again' movie moment, something which definitely was one of those moments that make life worth living. I did not even care if they won the final, as that moment had singlehadedly convinced me in a very practical manner of something I was dilligently trying to shed my skin away from all this past period : that one can love his country with no strings attached whatsoever - but they did win the final in a historic match.
If you do recall correctly, A similar event presented itself when Iraqi singer Shadha Hasoon won the StarAcademy contest, another event that was trumpeted up our helpless asses as a figure that Iraq was still strong, my reaction was audibly toilety. As a matter of fact, I was not basking alone in my cave of contempt but a great portion of people felt the same way, so why should football, yet another leisure-time concept imported from the infidel West, trigger such emotions? While both singing and football are universal delights, football is too embedded in the national consciousness to be regarded as a 'western import' now, even though some half-brained clerics occasionally try to voice that idea, football has nothing that could be considered as in explicit violation of religious decrees, and it found its die-hard audience as the number 1 sport in most of the world countries, including Iraq.
Here's something interesting: I went out after the game to the commercial Rabia district, where scores of Iraqis gathered shouting and chanting in front of the most popular Iraqi restaurant, Qassim Abu il-Kass, I even shared a bit into the 'mosh-pit' of people jumping up and down and it was all fine for about 10 or 15 minutes, and that's when this black 4x4 came in out of nowhere, somebody was standing on top of it, and he was holding a picture of Saddam Hussein, he was shouting at the top of his voice only for one thing: "our blood, our soul, we sacrifice to you Saddam" (which is hugely ironic, since "we" are still alive and chanting), a few chimed in this, but i believe most did not, and in fact it generated a counter-chant (our blood, our soul, we give to you Iraq), I was revelling with disgust and I really considered hurling a shoe at the picture of the man who was the only one sacrificed so far, but it didn't last long, since the Jordanian security guards came, very angry and rugged, and started dispersing the crowds, they took about a dozen young men for charges ranging from holding the Iraqi flag, talking back, and beating a daff (tambourine like thingie), they may have had a right to disperse us, as the street was a major commercial one and it was clogged bad, but their most violent, uncouth method of doing so was certainly reflective of the solidarity of the Arab nations, and it is really nice if compared to this picture taken in Sweden, where the people there are perhaps 1/10 of the ones in Jordan but the celerbation there was 10 times as bigger, allegedly WITH the help of the police, who closed the place for them (click to enlarge):
Yes, I do realize that probably it may have no effect on the bloodbath back home, and things could be darker than one would ever imagine, but what this thing did for me, and hopefully for many other Iraqis, is that it reminded us that there is indeed something that is common between all of us that is real and genuine, a deep chord that is resonating still inside, whether it was already present and we lost it, or whether we are all hoping for that could transpire practically in the future, in any case, for the first time in my life, I believe in Iraq with conviction, and that is certainly enough.
NOTE: This seminal Zeyad post includes a lot of pictures about worldwide Iraqi celebrations , the ones in Jordan feature the Saddam picture i was talking about as well as a hazy YouTube video of the Jordanian security episode.