There are all kinds of ways to make this political. I mean, the Iraqis can’t even enjoy their Asian Cup semi-final win without another round of Car Bomb Derby breaking out (and incidentally, “Soccer Victory Lifts Iraq; Bombs Kill 50” is the clubhouse leader for the Surreal Headline of 2007 award); and there will be no irony lost on the fact that their opponent in the Asian Cup final is the country that actaully sent 15 of the 19 hijackers into our buildings.
But ultimately it’s just sport—22 men, one ball, no hands. And athletes at this level, they aren’t political. They play for their country, but they do not die for it.
So I am going to find a TV somewhere that is broadcasting the Cup final and I am going to watch because, like the guy quoted in the Times article observed, I also want to see a soccer team do in 90 minutes (plus maybe some stoppage time and perhaps extra time) “what Iraqi politicians have failed to do all of these years for national unity.”
Although, I might have gone with “what over a century of hamfisted Western involvement in the region has failed to do for national unity” but I look at responsibility from a different perspective.
Okay, that’s kind of political. But fuck, how Iraq has even fielded a team, much less won its group—they drew into Group A with the Cup favorite Aussies who brought a side very similar to the one that is still complaining about the defeat to Italy in last year’s World Cup round of 16—then made it to the finals is a miracle.
An actual one. The Vatican might even be compelled to recognize it as such if not for the fact that Iraqis aren’t very, you know, Catholic. But, the torrential pre-semi-final-game downpour that slowed the field and deprived the South Koreans of a distinct speed advantage, the Korean keeper letting a would-be game-winning PK save slip through his hands, then another Korean knocking the game-sealing kick off the post, they all reek of some kind of intervention.
Or incredible luck.
Why this isn’t a bigger story here is beyond explanation. Maybe politicians don’t want to have to admit that despite all the rhetorical jockeying the best thing going on in Iraq is soccer, or have to deal with the real life satire of the biggest victory the country earning this century having taken place in Indonesia. But politicians don’t program news networks.
So, maybe it’s just because it’s soccer.