Iraq wins the Asian CupCongratulations to Iraq's national soccer team. The side won their first ever Asian Cup with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were playing in their record-setting sixth final, while the Iraqis had never finished better than fourth.
Iraq's victory was a huge upset. They'd never finished better than fourth in previous 13 editions. Saudi Arabia had been Asian Cup finalists six times, winning three. Iraq also beat 2006 World Cup participants South Korea and Australia in earlier rounds. The situation in Iraq is such that the team couldn't even train in their own country.
The win was certainly a welcome joy for people who've been subjected to unimaginable chaos, violence and carnage of the last four years (not that the previous 25 were any paradise). Ordinary Iraqis deserve any shred of joy they can find. No one should begrudge them that.
Not surprisingly, this sporting victory was quickly spun by ideologues in this country for PR purposes. It should not obscure the misery currently crippling the occupied land.
Earlier today, Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations concluded that one-third of the country's population, 8 million 'liberated' Iraqis, needed urgent emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis.
That doesn't count the 2 million who've fled Iraq altogether.
And while the American press played up the Asian Cup victory, few media outlets reported on the comments of the Iraq soccer team's captain.
Younis Mahmoud scored the Cup winning goal but was still able to a sobering view of the reality in his country. Mahmoud indicated that he wouldn't be returning to his homeland because he feared for his life.
"I want America to go out," he said. "Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn't invade Iraq and hopefully it will be over soon."
Like most Americans, I share his sentiments. Sadly, the guy in the White House with degrees from Yale and Harvard will probably never figure out what a soccer player without a high school diploma already knows.