Monday, 06 August 2012, 02:12 GMT
Erbil clinches fourth Iraqi Elite League title

Erbil FC players pose for a photo, May 23, 2012./GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamid

The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed-Erbil

"Today is one of the greatest days in my life,"

For the fourth time in its history, Erbil Football Club (Hawler FC) won the Iraqi Elite League title after tying 0-0 with Al-Taji FC in Baghdad. The contest took place at Al-Tajee Stadium on August 1st, one of the hottest days in the month of Ramadan, with few spectators in attendance.

The draw kept Erbil ten points ahead of its constant rival Al-Qua Al-Jawiyah who lost 2-0 to Al-Mina in the same day.

It was both a sporting triumph and national victory, as international media announced that a Kurdish club from Hawler in Kurdistan won the league.

Just a few minutes after the match ended, Erbil club fans gathered on the major streets of the city and celebrated the historic victory of their team. Children jubilantly waved the teams yellow castle flags along with the Kurdistan flags while youths decorated the city with traditional Kurdish line dancing.

"Today is one of the greatest days in my life," said Sirwan Brzo, a young boy as he excitedly waved his yellow flag, yellow being the color of Erbil FC's jerseys. "Erbil played the best during the whole season. I will promise to continue encouraging and cheering on Erbil even at the AFC Cup," Brzo added.

Erbil secured its place in Iraqi football history and ended the season as worthy winners after a league campaign that was packed with consistently excellent performances. It claimed top spot with 78 points after beating a number of strong challengers along the way to lifting the trophy, including a memorable 6-1 victory over Baghdad giants Al Shurta in the 34th week of the season.

"We really deserved to become champions; however, winning this season's Iraqi league was not easy at all. We all gave a lot of energy and competed hard. I am now happy that our hard work has resulted in such a big victory," said Omer Majeed, Erbil FC assistant coach, who congratulated all the Kurdish people and in particular the passionate fans of the yellow castle team.

Majeed thinks that winning the Iraqi league title will give Erbil team renewed vigor and encouragement to excel in their remaining matches of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

Erbil will face Malaysian double-winners Kelantan in the AFC Cup two-legged quarter-finals. Their first quarter-final match will be played at the Franso Al Hariri Stadium on the 18th of September, with the return leg due to be played at the Sultan Mohammed IV Stadium in Kota Baru of Malaysia on September 25th.

Sarhang Muhsin, Erbil goalkeeper and club captain, said proudly "I feel extremely happy over this great achievement. I promised to show a high performance this season at the very beginning of the league; now the teams, fans realized that I kept my promise. Our next mission is to try hard in order to win the AFC Cup for the first time."

Erbil has managed to keep hold of the majority of its successful squad and it succeeded to win the title with three matches spare. After playing 35 matches, Erbil won 22 games, drew 12 and lost only one match.

Iraqi Elite League (Dawri Al-Nokhba) is the highest division in the league system of Iraqi football. It contains the top 20 Iraqi football clubs. A total of 20 teams contested the league, sixteen teams from the 2010--11 season and four promoted team from the Iraq premier league.

The 2011--12 Iraqi Elite League was the 38th season of the Iraqi Elite League since its establishment in 1974. Al-Zawraa has won the league title 12 times so far.

The league is considered as one of the longest in the world, beginning on 29th October 2011 and expected to end in the middle of August 2012.