Iraq’s 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia on a 71st-minute header by captain Younis Mahmoud was an inspirational triumph for a team whose players straddle bitter and violent ethnic divides. After the game, Mahmoud called for the United States to withdraw its troops from his nation.
“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.”
Reminds me of when the Iraqi Olympic team rebuffed the president’s attempts to use it in campaign commercials.
“Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” [Iraqi midfielder Salih] Sadir told SI.com through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. “He can find another way to advertise himself.”
Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush’s TV advertisement. “How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?” Manajid told me. “He has committed so many crimes.”
They also find it offensive that Bush is using Iraq for his own gain when they do not support his administration’s actions. “My problems are not with the American people,” says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. “They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?”
At a speech in Beaverton, Ore., last Friday, Bush attached himself to the Iraqi soccer team after its opening-game upset of Portugal. “The image of the Iraqi soccer team playing in this Olympics, it’s fantastic, isn’t it?” Bush said. “It wouldn’t have been free if the United States had not acted.”
The article, originally from Sports Illustrated in 2004, is well worth a read.