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Iraq Beats Palestine 4-0 in Baghdad Soccer Match

posted on: Jul 14, 2009

Iraq played its first game in Baghdad since before the invasion, beating Palestine 4-0 on Monday and triggering wild celebrations among Iraqis unable to watch their national sports teams during years of war.

Hawar Mulah Mohammed scored in the 27th minute of the exhibition, Karar Jassim and Alaa Abdul-Zahraa followed and Emad Mohammed scored the fourth on a penalty for the Asian champions.

On Friday, Iraq played its first home game since 2002, beating Palestine 3-0 in the northern city of Irbil. Iraq’s last home game before that was July 22, 2002, when it beat Syria 2-1 in Baghdad.

In the capital Monday, Shaab stadium was filled to capacity with 45,000 fans who were allowed free entry. Some supporters sat on the edge of the field, and police were barely able to contain the crowds that poured into the stadium.

Fans waved Iraqi and Palestinian flags and chanted “Glory to Baghdad”, “The Shiites and the Sunnis are brothers” and “Our hearts are with Gaza.”

Balloons and white doves were released before the start of the match.

“I insisted on coming here despite my disability and the heat,” said Karim Ahmed, who came to the stadium from Baghdad’s Sadr City district in a wheelchair four hours before the start of the match. “All the fans are eager to see the national team in Baghdad. It is a clear sign that Iraqis are not deterred by terrorist attacks.”

Najih Hamoud, a senior Iraqi football federation official, said the match showed that Baghdad is safe.

“We hope that this match will make the FIFA officials think of lifting the ban on holding matches in Baghdad,” he said.

The country sank into chaos after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but has made gains in security after years of insurgent attacks and sectarian violence.

Although violence is sharply down, insurgents still carry out attacks regularly. Four people died in bombings of churches in the capital on Sunday.

Associated Press