Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

In Iraq, watching a game in peace is a pleasure

Perhaps no country has gone through more change since the last World Cup than Iraq, where in 2006 the tournament played out as the nation was gripped by intense sectarian bloodshed.

BAGHDAD // Perhaps no country has gone through more change since the last World Cup than Iraq, where in 2006 the tournament played out as the nation was gripped by intense sectarian bloodshed. Not so this year. About 50 men sprawled on plastic chairs, smoked water pipes and sipped tea as they watched Brazil play North Korea on an overhead television at a central Baghdad cafe on Tuesday night.

Private generators worked overtime to make up for frequent power outages and to keep the television and electric fans running as the night-time temperature soared above 32C. Only one glitch: an interrupted satellite signal forced everyone to miss the first 10 minutes of the game. "We sat with our heads in our hands until they fixed it," said Ali Hatem, 24, with a laugh. "But it's worth it. This place is better than sitting at home where there isn't any electricity."

Ahmad Nouri, the cafe owner, scooped ice cream and ordered waiters to work faster as the sound of cheers mingled with that of dominoes slapping against tables. "It makes me so happy to see people feel comfortable and enjoy the game," Nouri said. "We were deprived of this luxury during the last World Cup." Four years ago, Iraq was in the grip of sectarian violence and people largely avoided public venues, fearing bombs or ambushes. Lighting a cigarette, Emad al-Zubaidi, 54, said, "People can breathe and see what's out there now."

Violence has dropped sharply, although Iraqi security forces stood guard near the cafe "Don't worry!" Hatem said. "One day Iraq will be in the World Cup, and we will even host it!" * AP

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Ahli's Ismail Al Hammadi, left, battles for the ball during the Arabian Gulf Cup final between against Al Jazira at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on April 19, 2014. Al Hammadi hit the game-winner in the 81st minute for Ahli. Al Ittihad

Al Ahli maintain course for domestic treble with victory over Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup

Al Ahli maintained their hopes of a domestic treble with a superb comeback victory against Al Jazira in the Arabian Gulf Cup final on Saturday night.

 Alex Kacaniklic, left, of Fulham tackles Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur during their Premier League match at White Hart Lane on April 19, 2014, in London, England. Clive Rose / Getty Images

Tottenham keep pace in chase for European places with victory over Fulham

Swansea appear to be safe after rallying past Newcastle while Crystal Palace continue their winning streak

 On a track described as a ‘tyre-killer’ in Shanghai, Lewis Hamilton went untested on his way to a 34th pole – the most by a British driver – yesterday. Carlos Barria / Reuters

Hamilton has sympathy for fans hung out to dry with wet tyre rules

The Briton takes his career's 34th pole - the most by a British driver - but sympathises it was not ideal for the ticket-paying public.

 Yuzvendra Chahal, centre, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore teammates celebrate after the bowlers set up an easy win over Mumbai Indians. Pawan Singh / The National

Bowlers set up Bangalore as Patel stand tall over Mumbai

Mumbai bowlers gave early hope but Parthiv Patel and AB de Villiers' unbeaten stand of 99 ensures second defeat for the men in blue in Dubai.

 Roelof Kotzee is leading UAE to unchartered territory. Sarah Dea / The National

UAE step into the unknown ahead of Asian Five Nations

Performance manager Roelof Kotze will give 12 players their first experience of international rugby, but there is also minimal information on Singapore ahead of first Test in Dubai on Wednesday, reports Paul Radley.

 Novak Djokovic of Serbia winces in pain during his semi-final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 19, 2014. Federer prevailed to set up an all-Swiss final with Stanislas Wawrinka. SEBASTIEN NOGIER / EPA

Ailing Djokovic will ‘just rest now’ while Nadal not pressing the panic button

Djokovic says only rest will help is injured right wrist after he falls to Roger Federer on Saturday, and Nadal suffers just his third career defeat in Monte Carlo when he slumped to a shock 7-6, 6-4 quarter-final loss to compatriot Ferrer on Friday.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National