Due to the focus on the African Champions League final, another story of triumph and glory from the region has went under the radar.
For the second season in a row Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, the Iraqi Air Force football club, won the AFC Cup – the second most important football competition in Asia.
On Saturday afternoon, Al-Jawiya, the leading club in Iraq in recent years, has beaten Istiklol from Tajikistan 1-0 in Dushanbe, thanks to a goal by Emad Mohsin in the 68th minute. Captain Hammadi Ahmed laid back Sameh Saeed’s cross from the right for Mohsin, who emphatically finished from 12 yards for his third goal of the campaign.
Al-Jawiya completed a ‘repeat’, after they won the tournament last year too, when they played India’s JSW Bengaluru in Doha, at a time when Iraq experienced some of its darkest, most uncertain days during the war in Mosul.
Al-Jawiya is becoming the face of Iraq’s way to recovery – in sports – with a second ever continental title. This achievement is joining a series of successful tournaments of the club, who won the Iraqi Cup in 2015, the AFC Cup in 2016 and the Iraqi League & AFC Cup in 2017. With such an impressive record in less than three years, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Al-Jawiya is becoming a mega club in Iraqi and Asian standards.
Iraq has been investing vastly in football in the past year, renovating and constructing new stadiums and football facilities in order to push the country forward in manners of international sports. This victory of Al-Jawiya isn’t an ‘out of the blue’ surprise, but small revenue of the hard work that has been made by the club and the Iraqi football community.
Yet, despite the great success in the Asian level, in the local level it seems like the Iraqi Football is struggling. The Iraqi Association is having trouble in building the right system for the new season – 2017/18.
After expanding the league from 20 teams to 26 in two groups of 13, in the past week the organizers decided to add two more teams from the second division. This change concluded that 28 clubs will take part in the Premier League this year, but unfortunately, they couldn’t agree on the league preferable mechanism and method. Two weeks before the season kicks off, that might be a problem.
Looking at Al-Jawiya’s achievements and the fact that football is being played in a country that suffered so much from terror, wars and instability, puts everything in proportions. Even if it will take a week more, the Iraqi League will be played this season, and will provide interesting moments of Middle Eastern football in the local & International competitions.