FIFA U17: Inspired Iraq looks to overcome the odds

The young Iraqi side is looking at the success of the senior team ten years ago - it had won the Asian Cup - as a big source of inspiration.

Iraq’s players practise in Kolkata on Saturday.   -  PTI

The youthful Iraq team members participating in the FIFA U-17 World Cup have turned messengers of peace. The current Asian U-17 champion is using the opportunity to improve relationships with other countries, a goal that was echoed repeatedly by the team coach Qahtan Chitheer. 

"I am sure we will get a lot of support from India as we are very close culturally," Chitheer said as Iraq prepared for its first outing of the group F against Mexico. "The situation in Iraq is really hard. There are some issues but the players are extremely committed and we hope for the best," the coach added.

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Football is providing the peace-loving people in the country a break from political turmoil brought about by a prolonged history of strife and conflicts.

"Our preparations were hit very hard by financial and social problems. That is the reason why could not move outside Gulf and had to play against neighbouring countries like Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia while preparing for the tournament," the coach said. He also said the team is motivated to overcome all odds and qualify to the next stage. Iraq last played in 2013 in UAE and lost all the group league matches.

Source of inspiration

The young Iraqi side is looking at the success of the senior team ten years ago - it had won the Asian Cup - as a big source of inspiration. "The 2007 generation which brought glory to Iraq by winning the Asian title is a big inspiration for the players. We hope to do something like what they did in 2007," Iraq captain Saif Khalid said. "We are now the Asian U-17 [champion] and would now like to take the next step by doing well in the World Cup," he added.

Iraq became Asian U-17 champion here in India (Goa) after beating traditional rival Iran and ensured its qualification to the World Cup for the second time.