For me, the best moment of 2007 came when Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud leapt and headed in the winning goal for his nation in the 76th minute of the Asian Cup Final against Saudi Arabia.
Going into the tournament, no one gave the war-torn nation a chance. The US-led invasion and the subsequent civil war had torn the nation apart and the team had not played a game on Iraqi soil since 2003.
The team were rated amongst the underdogs. But as the competition progressed, the Iraqis grew from strength to strength to defeat Australia, Vietnam, and South Korea to reach the Final.
No one gave them a chance against the mighty Saudis who were three-time champions. The team gave all they had and grinded out a historic victory. With that, Iraq has also qualified for the 2009 Confederations Cup, which will give them a chance to play against the major nations such as Italy and Brazil.
Back home, the nation rejoiced. They put aside their religious and political differences to be out on the streets of Baghdad to celebrate their team’s achievements, albeit for one night only.
The victory is unlikely to bring peace to the nation overnight, but it has shot the team into prominence. It proved again that the spirit of sports can transcend all differences to bring people together.
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