Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Iraqi football fans angered by 'own goal' against Qatar in the Asian Cup

Qatar defender who knocked Iraq out of the tournament is of Iraqi origin

Qatar's defender Bassam Al Rawi (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 football match between Qatar and Iraq on January 22, 2019. AFP
Qatar's defender Bassam Al Rawi (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 football match between Qatar and Iraq on January 22, 2019. AFP

Iraqi football fans have taken their frustrations to social media after a Qatari player of Iraqi origin scored the winning goal against the "Lions of Mesopotamia" during an Asian Cup match.

Bassam Al Rawi, who is the son of former Iraq international Hisham Al Rawi, came under fire for the way in which he celebrated Qatar's victory over his country of origin, which left thousands of Iraqis devastated and tearful.

Iraqi fans at the Al Nayhan Satadium in Abu Dhabi were stunned into silence after Al Rawi’s second-half free kick on Tuesday evening.

Online, fans were livid.

“You will regret this moment for the rest of your life, how can you celebrate a win against your own country?” Dima Khathim, an Iraqi residing in New York said on Twitter.

The goal ensured Qatar's place in the quarter finals against South Korea with a hard fought 1-0 win.

“The goal by the Iraqi player who has Qatari citizenship is nothing surprising but the way he celebrated the defeat in front of thousands of Iraqi fans is what was wrong,” Hassan Ali, an Iraqi residing in London said on Twitter.

The loss for Iraq means it will depart the tournament before the quarter finals for the first time since 1972.

But there wasn’t a dull moment at the stadium as a crowd of 14,000 cheered on the Iraqi team throughout the 90-minute match.

“This seriously hurts so bad! But this is a prime example when a country can't keep its talents. Iraq's most important resource is its human resource and not oil,” said Dina Al Shibeed, an Iraqi journalist, on Twitter.

Not everyone on social media was critical of Al Rawi however, with one Twitter user describing the fracas over his celebration as “ridiculous”.

“In fifty years’ time there will be players of Iraqi origin playing for other countries and they will score against Iraq and will celebrate. It’s disgusting that some people are calling him names,” said Ayad.

Decades of fighting and the recent battles against ISIS have destroyed a lot of Iraq's public spaces, including sports grounds.

Football has been low on the government's list of priorities, and a lack of funding has hindered Iraq's prospects and its athletes' achievements.

"Baghdad should assist the country's sporting authority as it is a matter of national pride and it will bring people together," Bilal Mahmood, an Iraqi residing in Baghdad, said on Twitter.

Updated: January 23, 2019 05:24 PM

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