Iraqis had reason to celebrate over the weekend when the national soccer team played their first match since the ongoing FIFA ban was lifted. The last match the team had pitted the Iraqis against Pakistan. However, the first game was listed as “friendly”, so the team chose their opponent, and in a move of graciousness squared off with the Syrian team. Part of the rationale was to reciprocate for the welcoming nature that the Syrians displayed during the Iraqi invasion of 2003, where many refugees fled across the border to escape the fighting between the U.S. military and Saddam Hussein’s forces. For the people of both Syria and Baghdad, this could signal a return to normalcy, as the game was notably lacking in any political overtones. Ironically, the Syrian team has been rather successful in their prowess, as they nearly qualified for the 2012 Olympics. It was not immediately clear if the team was associated with either the al-Assad regime or the resistance movement. Regardless, it was a joy for Iraqi and Syrian fans alike, as they had an opportunity to set aside the horrors of internal conflict and instead enjoy a friendly competition.
Flashback to the 2012 AFC Championship where the Syrian team defeated Saudi Arabia