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After decades of war and security instability, the holding of the Gulf Cup in the city of Basra, in the far south of Iraq, has a taste of victory before its time for the inhabitants. An enthusiasm shared by the supporters from the eight competing nations.
From our special correspondent in Basra,
« Tonight… Tonight we stay up till morning », sing in chorus about thirty Iraqi supporters. The country’s flag is waving as a banner, they come running from all the streets of downtown Basra to join the festivities on the Corniche.
This Monday, January 16, the promenade along the Shatt el-Arab river is crowded. Iraq has just qualified for the final. Under the fireworks that accompany the slightest goal and each victory of the national team, the supporters exult. ” It’s indescribabletries to explain Zeinab, a resident of Basra, we cried at the final whistle ».
Some launch into improvised dances and the few Qatari flags drowned in the mass, far from disappearing after the defeat, also remain to continue the evening. Enthusiasm is contagious. This is not surprising, according to Ayat. ” We all hope that Iraq will always be at peace so that we can experience moments like this “explains the teenager bassraoui, summing up the thoughts of many people met since the opening match of the Cup.
A hoped-for reunion
Whether they are from Iraq or come from the Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the supporters bear witness to a special moment that is not limited to sporting competition. “ Without being big football fans, we wanted to see it with our own eyes. “, slips in passing an Emirati tourist, hurrying among the crowd gathered, like every evening, on the banks of the river. The holding of the Gulf Cup in Basra was indeed not obvious. For decades, the war prevented the country from hosting the event on its territory, and for more than ten years, it was even excluded from any participation, following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.
Sahem, dressed in traditional attire, was present initially to support the Kuwaiti players. His team was eliminated from the tournament, but with his wife and friends, they chose to continue their stay, happy and surprised at the welcome they received. ” We didn’t expect it to go so well, that relations between us Sunnis and Iraqi Shiites would be so simple, is he having fun now. I even have a friend who asks me to accompany him to visit Karbala [lieu saint parmi les plus importants de la religion chiite, NDLR]. »
Abdallah, also a Kuwaiti and an absolute football fan, still takes advantage of the players’ days off to visit the city. ” It has recreated fraternal relations between us. We missed the Iraqis “, he smiles, addressing the owner of the restaurant-museum in which he is seated.
For nearly two weeks, all the nationalities of the Gulf have been meeting in this establishment. ” Two Qataris came and I told them about the beauty of Baghdad “, testifies Sadiq el Hassoun, the owner of the place to try to explain what emerges from the exchanges with the customers. “ They told me that they would be very happy to go there to see the holy places of the capital. A friend of mine took them and now they want to go to Najaf and Karbala. They are happy and feel safe in Iraq. »
A breath of fresh air
Whether you are a big football fan or not, it was an opportunity not to be missed. ” I am overwhelmed by emotions. I know how much the Iraqi people have sufferedis moved Moustafa, who arrived from Baghdad the day before the semi-final, and it’s amazing to see them forget about political squabbles and crises. »
At each match, the stadiums are full to bursting, entry tickets are snapped up and for those who cannot attend, on every street corner, many individuals take out televisions or computers to follow them outside and on several . According to the Gulf federation, the Cup in Iraq has reached record numbers of supporters, announcing up to 450,000 people. Attention now turns to the final on Thursday, January 19, in which Iraq will face the national team of the Sultanate of Oman. A repeat of the opening duel which ended in a draw.
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