The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed--Erbil
After playing three matches at the Al Nakba Cup, the Kurdistan football team secured third place and was granted the Fair Play Award by the tournament organizers.
Al Nakba Cup or Palestine International Cup is a friendly international tournament hosted by Palestine. National teams from Asia and Africa were invited with many sending youth sides in preparation for upcoming youth tournaments.
The first edition of the tournament was held in May 2011 which was graced by the world football governing body (FIFA) president Sepp Blatter. Sixteen teams had participated in that event, which was won by the Bulgarian's Tshevell after beating Jerusalemite Hilal in the final.
This year the tournament was elevated to international level as national teams took part under the motto "Palestine from Nakba to Statehood".
The participating teams included: Mauritania, Tunisia U-20, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan U-22, Pakistan U-22, Palestine (B team), Sri Lanka, and Vietnam U-19. Uzbekistan was supposed to be in the Cup and was drawn into Group B but withdrew one day before the events took place.
The Kurdistan team participated in the tournament for first time this year after receiving an invitation letter from the Palestinian sports officials. The team snatched an easy 3-1 win over Mauritania in its first appearance at the Cup. After tying with Indonesia 1-1, Kurdistan went on to reach the Semi-finals. But in the subsequent game, Kurdistan was defeated by Tunisia 2-1 and was knocked out of the tournament.
Despite winning third place in the tournament, Kurdistan was granted the Fair Play Award by the tournament organizers.
The Fair Play Award is a distinction that the tournament organizers usually bestow on the cleanest team in the competition. Kurdistan players received the least number of yellow and red cards, showing their professionalism and sporting behavior in the tournament.
Kurdish fans were generally satisfied with the Kurdistan team's result in the competition, though some believe the team could do better if the three giant clubs, Erbil, Duhok, and Zakho, would provide the team with their players who are needed to play in different championships and leagues.
The support of fans is a vital ingredient that means more power and motivation to footballers, even if they are far from the live events.
"These players helped us keep our heads up, though we weren't able to cheer on our team there. Still, we were keen to know the results through watching the matches on TV live," said Amjad Shwan, 24. "They showed us what the real Kurdistan is and how we can work hard to be something."
Ahmad Taha, 26, is a fan who hopes he will be able to see Kurdistan team win the VIVA World Cup at home this year.
The team's contribution in the Palestinian tournament is believed to be a good preparation for the VIVA World Cup, which kicks off in mid June.
The Kurdistan team is currently preparing to host the VIVA World Cup, an international football tournament organized by the NF Board, an umbrella association for nations unaffiliated with FIFA. Competitions are held every two years.