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Matthew Hall & The national soccer team of Iraq

Matthew Hall & The national soccer team of Iraq

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Published by Matthew Hall
The coach of Iraq explains that "all my players will be killed."
The coach of Iraq explains that "all my players will be killed."

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Published by: Matthew Hall on Jul 29, 2009
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05/11/2014

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07/09/2007 11:08 AMMatthew Hall meets a team in exile | News | Guardian Unlimited FootballPage 1 of 4file:///Users/matthewhall/Desktop/Matthew%20Hall%20meets%20a%20te…%20%7C%20News%20%7C%20Guardian%20Unlimited%20Football.webarchive
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Asia Cup
'If some of these players gohome they will be killed'
As Iraq prepare for the Asia Cup, Jorvan Vieira tellsMatthew Hall about coaching a team in exile
 
Saturday June 30, 2007The Guardian
 Steve McClaren and his predecessors may have their ownparticular complaints and challenges when it comes tomanaging the England national team. But a few weeks ofwork experience with Jorvan Vieira, the new coach ofIraq's national team, would make them count theirblessings.Vieira, a 53-year-old Brazilian, was appointed a monthago, charged with leading the team in the Asian Cup,which kicks off in Bangkok in a week's time. "You cannotimagine it," Vieira said after a team dinner at a restaurantin Amman, Jordan. "I am in a real Arabic souk. Every day, Idon't know where we will go for training. Every day, peoplewant to meet with me for two or three hours a day todiscuss the players. Today, I kicked a chair. I kickedeverything."Article continues
 
07/09/2007 11:08 AMMatthew Hall meets a team in exile | News | Guardian Unlimited FootballPage 2 of 4file:///Users/matthewhall/Desktop/Matthew%20Hall%20meets%20a%20te…%20%7C%20News%20%7C%20Guardian%20Unlimited%20Football.webarchive
Like many coaches of developing countries' nationalteams, Vieira has a long and winding CV. He has extensiveexperience with Arab clubs and national teams - he wasassistant coach with Morocco at the 1986 World Cup - butnothing quite prepared him for taking charge of a teamwith no home, representing a broken country.For economic reasons, as well as personal safety, andbecause organised football in Iraq was destroyed by thewar, most of his squad play with clubs across the MiddleEast and Cyprus. Vieira's family remained in Morocco whilehe prepared his team during June at the Iraq FootballAssociation's makeshift base in Jordan - effectively anAmman hotel lobby."Some of them, if they go to Iraq, they are going to bekilled," Vieira said of his squad. "When you don't knowwhere your home is, where your things are, you are lost inspace. It's the same when you have no organisation inyour house. You don't know where you put your socks oryour trousers. It's the same here. They are lost peoplebecause of the war."Carrying an Iraqi passport, even if you play for the nationalteam, can lead to situations many professional footballersmay struggle to comprehend. "When some players arrivedhere in Amman they had to wait six or seven hours at theairport," Vieira explained. "The Jordanian police would notallow them to come into the country. Nobody didanything, nobody moved, nobody wrote a list of players totell the government that this is the Iraq national team.The players suffered only because they had Iraqipassports."Despite their trials, Vieira said, his players have not 
 
07/09/2007 11:08 AMMatthew Hall meets a team in exile | News | Guardian Unlimited FootballPage 3 of 4file:///Users/matthewhall/Desktop/Matthew%20Hall%20meets%20a%20te…%20%7C%20News%20%7C%20Guardian%20Unlimited%20Football.webarchive
allowed their country's troubles to affect the unity of thesquad. "I don't have one person in this group who hasn'tlost someone from their family because of this war. Butthey never mix politics in the team. They never talk aboutit. They regret the situation, of course, and they arenostalgic. They miss their country and they're not happyto see their country like it is but nobody talks about thewar."I have different groups, different sects, like in Iraq, buthere nothing happens and everything is OK. I have Sunniand I have Shia and there is no problem. They are veryclose. I have experience with a lot of Arabic countries andI've already learned a lot since I've been with the Iraqteam. This is a typical religious war. The extremists havetried to put more fire in the situation. Iraqi people whoused to live in peace before, and had respect for religiousdifferences, are now under oppression."My assistant coach was living in Baghdad but one day hewas driving his car and he was stopped. They stole his carand said, 'If you don't go, we will kill you.' Then theybegan calling him and said that if he didn't give moneythen they were going to kidnap his son. He had to leaveBaghdad. The city is being run by gangsters, like in Brazil.Rio de Janeiro and Baghdad are like twin brothers when itcomes to violence. It's crazy."Against this backdrop Vieira seeks success in the AsianCup. Japan - the holders - South Korea, China and SaudiArabia are the heavyweights alongside the favourites, andthe Asian Football Confederation newcomers, Australia.Iraq will meet the Socceroos on July 13 in a group thatalso includes Thailand and Oman. The team's core is builtaround the side that impressed at the 2004 AthensOlympics when Iraq beat Portugal, Costa Rica, andAustralia before losing out on a bronze medal to Italy.Vieira needs to have similar aspirations for the Asian Cup."I want to be in the last four," he said. "If I had more time,I would tell you I'm going to make the final but now that'snot possible. If we got to the final then, as the Arabs say,'it is with God'."
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