What is the national sport of Yemen

FOOTBALL IN IRAQ : From British import to national sport

The pioneering time:

Football, which was imported to the Middle East by British soldiers at the end of the 19th century, was initially viewed with skepticism by the population. The sport was too much suspected of being part of Western cultural imperialism and in conflict with the teaching of the Koran. The popularity of football therefore spread only slowly, remaining limited to Kuwait and Yemen. That only changed after the First World War, when sport conquered Iraq, among other places.

The league: It was not until 1948 that the Iraqi Football Association was formed, and a year later teams from Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul played for the first championship. But after just one season it came to an end - the ball was idle for 13 years. When it was re-launched from 1962 to 1973, only clubs from Baghdad that were close to the country's most important institutions were allowed. Further interruptions followed in the war years 1990/91 and 2003. The most successful club in the country is called Al Zawra from Baghdad. The last championship title was played among 24 clubs that qualified for the finals in four districts. The best players flee abroad for fear of attacks and kidnappings - the winning goal scorer against Saudi Arabia Younis Mahmoud plays in Qatar.

The national team: In 1950 Iraq became an official member of the World Football Association (Fifa). The first international match took place against Morocco in 1957, but the country had to wait until 1980 to participate in an international tournament. At the Olympic Games in Moscow, the "lions" made it to the quarter-finals. In 1986 in Mexico, Iraq took part in a World Cup for the only time so far, but failed in the preliminary round. The home of the national team is the Al Shaab national stadium in Baghdad, built in 1966, which achieved notoriety through mass shootings under the dictator Saddam Hussein, was badly damaged during the war and then served as a military base for the Americans. Since then, the Iraqis have played their home games on neutral ground. The development work is being carried out by the President of the Iraqi Football Association, Hussein Saeed, who is the record national player in his country with 126 appearances and 61 goals.

The successes: Iraq won the Arab Cup four times, the Golf Cup three times, the West Asian Cup in 2002 and the title of the West Asian Championship in 2005. There was also gold in 1982 and silver in 2006 at the Asian Games. In 2004 Iraq surprisingly reached fourth place at the Olympic Games in Athens. But by far the greatest success is winning this year's Asian Cup in Jakarta. Iraq is thus automatically qualified for the 2009 Confederation Cup. Paul Linke

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