Less than two months after Morocco played in the World Cup semi-finals, the Arab world had yet another reason to celebrate. Iraq champions the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup on Thursday January 19, also known as Ka’s Al-Khalij Al-Arab, in a 3-2 win against Oman.
After over 125 minutes of play, Iraq regained the Gulf Cup title for the first time since 1988 in its southern city of Basra. Despite the lack of accommodations due to the decreased tourism in Iraq, many residents offered tremendous hospitality to ensure a welcoming experience for the event.
Iraq is no stranger to deficits due to the atrocities imposed by past wars, and so hotels in the area are scarce. Residents, however, wasted no time opening their homes for the players, coaches, and delegates from different nations in the Gulf. Iraqis are widely known to be generous with their spaces as seen in the annual Arbaeen march where millions gather to pay homage to Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad who was killed fighting a tyrannical regime.
The Arbaeen march is arguably the world’s most generous event, as food, water and services are offered to pilgrims with no return expectation. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the locals were ready and willing to take the Gulf Cup accommodations into their own hands, entirely free of charge.
Despite the skewed perception that the media often portrays about Iraq, its people are hopeful that this win encourages more tourism so that others are able to witness the beauty of its country first hand.
“Our country has been broken too many times by people, countries, war, and hatred,” said Amar Alnahi, an Iraqi resident of Dearborn, Mich. “The tears and cheers were the scars that have been left open because our dear country has been through a lot.”
Alnahi and her family watched the game closely as they dressed up the children in team attire to show them the reality of the heart of Iraq.
“Our dream is to heal, and (that day) we got a portion of that healing,” Alnahi said.
Similarly, people all over the world took part in celebrating the victorious win. Many were seen sporting the Iraqi flag and decorating their cars to proudly represent their team’s efforts.
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