The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed--Erbil
For the first time in its history, the Kurdistan football team became VIVA World Cup champions after beating Northern Cyprus in the final game, held at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil on June 6.
What impressed many of the participating teams was the wonderful way they were received by city residents and officials. It was both a sporting and national victory, as international media commended the Kurds for hosting a successful tournament and winning the competition.
The stadium was almost full a couple of hours before the match started, mostly by the eager fans of Erbil and others cities in the Region. Many Iraqi and Kurdish government and sports officials were also in the stadium. A group of professional referees were invited to run the game, to ensure fairness and impartiality.
Kurdistan started by attacking the Cyprus goal from both wings from the very beginning, with the opposing players confined to their half of the pitch in the first period. Kurdistan scored the opening goal in the 10th minute through Erbil midfielder, Halgurd Mullah Muhammad, who converted a penalty.
Kurdistan dominated early possession with Karzan Abdullah a prominent part of the side's attacks and with Halgurd Mullah Muhammad marauding down the wings to torment the Cypriote goalkeeper.
Playing on home soil and with the great support of their home crowd behind them, Kurdistan scored the second goal in the 32nd minute through defender Hardi Siyamand.
Cyprus was looking for a reaction and tried to rally their troops. A grave mistake on the part of the Kurdish defense, allowed a Cypriote player to swivel and turn a Kurdish defender before firing past Kurdistan goalkeeper Didar Hamid, to ignite his side's recovery in the 40th minute.
In the second half both teams played a little nervously and with the morale of some of the Kurdish players dented, Kurdistan coach was pushed to make changes. But the changes didn't alter the result as the match ended 2-1 to Kurdistan's jubilation.
After the game, the Kurdistan players celebrated passionately. Cyprus players were awarded with silver medals for ending the competition as runners-up and the Kurdistan players were presented with gold medals. Kurdistan captain, Khalid Musheer, was presented the Cup by NF-board President, Christian Michele. The players hugged and held the trophy for high for all to see. The crowd of almost 15,000 rocked the stadium with chants of, "Kurdistan, Kurdistan!"
Kurdish athletes and fans were satisfied with Kurdistan's result in the competition, though some believed that the team could have done even better if the three giant of the Kurdish football scene, Erbil, Duhok, and Zakho, had provided the team with their players who were needed to play in different championships and leagues at the time.
Abullah Mahmud, Kurdistan team coach, expressing his joy at the victory, said "My players were excellent; they did what I wanted them to do. It is really a historical and national achievement not only for us as athletes but for all Kurdish people."
The support of fans is believed to mean more power and motivation for the footballers, even if they are far from the live events.
"These players helped us keep our faces up. Even those who didn't go to the stadium were keenly watching the match on TV," said Hersh Rasul, 24. "They showed us what the real Kurdistan is about and how we can work hard to be something."
The Kurdistan team snatched an easy 6-0 win over Western Sahara in the opening match, and then scored a crucial 1-0 victory over Occitania to reach the VIVA Semi-final. In its third match Kurdistan was able to defeat Provincia to reach the Final.
The participating teams in the tournament included the Kurdistan Region as hosts, Zanzibar, Provence, Occitania, Darfur, Raetia, North Cyprus, Western Sahara and Tamil Eelam.
The VIVA World Cup is an international football tournament organized by the NF Board, an umbrella association for nations unaffiliated with FIFA. Competitions are held every two years. Kurdistan Region has taken part in this tournament three times. In 2008, Kurdistan secured fourth place, but went on to become runners-up in 2009 and 2010. Kurdistan had the best chance to win the title this time around playing in front of their home crowd and seized their opportunity in the limelight with both hands.