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Iraq's double triumph: This week in Middle East football Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Iraq's double triumph: This week in Middle East football

The fans in Basra are known for their passion for football [File photo: AFP]

Date of publication: 31 October, 2018

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For the first time in almost 30 years, Iraq hosted the AFC Cup final, and topped it off with a well-earned win.
History has been made again in Middle Eastern football thia weekend, as for the first time since 1989, an Asian cup final was held in Iraq.

On Saturday night, Iraq's Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya won their third consecutive AFC Cup trophy and set a record for Asia's second-most important club competition.

Al-Jawiya's opponents, Altyn Asyr, became the first ever representatives from Turkmenistan to reach a continental final. But the fans in Basra, known for their passion for football, were all about the triumph of the Iraqi team.

The stadium was packed with 25,000 spectators, who saw Hammadi Ahmed adding yet another goal to his stats in the first half. The young defender Ibrahim Bayesh notched in a superb header in the second half and Al-Jawiya had beaten the Turkmen 2-0.

Hammadi Ahmed won the tournament's Most Valued Player award for a second consecutive year. "All we want is to show respect for Iraq and the Iraqi fans, and that the world would know that there is also normal life in the country," he said in an interview after the game.

"We want to be a country like all others, to host in our home in such atmosphere. Next year, inshallah, we'll do it in Baghdad at the People's Stadium. Allah Akbar."

The festivities were major, but more relaxed than the previous two AFC Cups celebrated by the team. With five titles in four years, and a record three successive AFC Cup wins, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya has become a real force in Asian football.

Many fans are already demanding that the Asian Football Association allows Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya to play in the Champions League next season. Although they may deserve it, it is doubtful whether it will happen. Iraq has a long way to go, mainly administratively, before it can host Champions League games.

Nevertheless, that a team from a war-torn country such as Iraq can reach sporting success like this is a remarkable achievement. Not without due reason, Al-Jawiya is being referred to as 'the Iraqi Sevilla' - after the Spanish five-time winners of the Europa League competition. The future is bright for al-Suqoor from Baghdad. 
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Africa

The African competitions were also played in the past week with the semifinals of both the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup.

In the Champions League, the final will be a classic North African derby between Al-Ahly from Egypt and Esperance de Tunis.

Al-Ahly beat Algeria's Setif to guarantee a 12th continental final in their club's history. Esperance meanwhile struggled against Primeiro de Agosto of Angola, but limped through to the final.

Al-Ahly is the clear favourite in this double-header, kicking off on Friday at the Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

In the Confederations Cup, Al-Masry Port Said made a strong bid to reach their first final since 1991 but lost to AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Palestinian striker Mahmoud Wadi couldn't help Port Said's disastrous display in Kinshasa. The Congolese will meet a notable North African side - Morocco's Raja Casablanca, who will attempt to win African glory for the first time in 15 years.

Vita is a strong contender, but Raja's players can be sure that the Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca will be full and fuelled for the occasion. 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here

Click 'Special Contents' below to catch up with all our football coverage from across the Middle East

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