[Marxism] "Iraqi soccer team gives Bush the boot"

Anna Fierling anna_fierling at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 20 10:36:12 MDT 2004

Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team Gives Bush the Boot
By Dave Zirin

Sometimes we are reminded that the Olympics can serve
as an international platform not only for nationalism
and truck commercials, but also resistance.

In an incredible piece by Grant Wahl on Sports
Illustrated.com, the Iraqi Olympic Soccer team has
issued a stinging rebuke to George W. Bush's attempt
to use them as election year symbols.

Iraq's soccer squad is perhaps the surprise of the
entire Olympics, advancing to this weekend's
quarterfinals despite the war and occupation that has
gripped their country for the last 17 months. Yet
amidst cheers and triumph, they were infuriated to
learn that Bush's brain, Karl Rove, had launched
campaign ads featuring their Olympic glory as a
brilliant by-product of the war on terror.

The commercial, subtle as a blowtorch, begins with an
image of the Afghani and Iraqi flags with a voice over
saying, "At this Olympics there will be two more free
nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes."

Bush has also been exploiting their exploits in stump
speeches. Much more comfortable talking sports than
foreign policy or stem-cell research, Bush brayed with
bravado in Oregon, "The image of the Iraqi soccer team
playing in this Olympics, it's fantastic, isn't it? It
wouldn't have been free if the United States had not

This has compelled the Iraqi soccer team, at great
personal risk, to respond. Mid-fielder and team leader
Salih Sadir told Sports Illustrated,
"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for
the presidential campaign. He can find another way to
advertise himself."

Sadir has reason to be upset. He was the star player
for the professional soccer team in Najaf. Najaf has
in recent weeks been swamped by US troops and the new
Iraqi army in an attempt to uproot rebel cleric
Moqtada Al-Sadr. Thousands have died, each death close
to Sadir's heart.

"I want the violence and the war to go away from the
city," said Sadir, "We don't wish for the presence of
Americans in our country. We want them to go away."

Sadir's teammates were less diplomatic.

Midfielder Ahmed Manajid, told Wahl angrily, "How will
[Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and
women? He has committed so many crimes."

Manajid understands Sadir's pain because he is from
another Iraqi city that has been in a state of siege,

Manajid told Wahl that his cousin Omar Jabbar al-Aziz,
who was a resistance fighter, was killed by the US, as
were several of his friends. Manajid even said that if
he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be
fighting as part of the resistance.

"I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades
America and the people resist, does that mean they are
terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a
terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are
some of the best people in Iraq."

Usually when there is political unrest on Olympic
teams, the coach tries to be a mitigating force with
the media. But not here and not now. Iraqi soccer
coach Adnan Hamad also went public to Sports
Illustrated saying,  "My problems are not with the
American people, They are with what America has done
in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has
killed so many people in Iraq."

To be clear, Iraq's team is not pining for former
Olympic head Uday Hussein, notorious for torturing
athletes that under performed. Yet they don't feel
their choice has to be between Uday's way and the
bloodbath that has been visited upon their country.
As Hamad said," What is freedom when I go to the
[national] stadium and there are shootings on the

The ideas expressed by the Iraqi soccer team are by
all counts commonplace in Iraq yet find little
expression in the mainstream media here at home. It is
critical that their words find ears.

Without WMDs, Al-Qaeda connections, and with an Iraqi
populace that overwhelmingly views the U.S. as
occupiers and not liberators, what possible
justification does Bush - and Kerry - have for
supporting this invasion that has cost hundreds of
billions of dollars and countless lives?

Take time this weekend to root for the Iraqi soccer
team. Their ascent will accompany a platform for ideas
that demand to be heard.

Dave Zirin can be reached at editor at pgpost.com. His
book "What's My Name Fool": Sports and Resistance in
the United States (Haymarket Books) comes out spring
To get his column every week, e-mail
edgeofsports-subscribe at zirin.com

Do you Yahoo!?
Win 1 of 4,000 free domain names from Yahoo! Enter now.

More information about the Marxism mailing list