Emotional presentation for Iraq team in Baghdad

Most of Iraq’s Asian Cup winning football team were to head to the Iraq Football Association's temporary headquarters in Jordan yesterday, barely 24 hours after returning to their war-torn country for official celebrations, a sports official told AFP. “Those leaving today will use the same plane as yesterday,” said Tariq Ahmed, an IFF official referring to the chartered plane that brought the team from Jordan on Friday afternoon. “Some of the players will return to Amman for various reasons. Some have contracts in Jordan, or in Syria, or elsewhere. The others, who don’t have contracts or external commitments, will remain in Iraq,” said Ahmed. Of the five of the 22-man national side who are expected to remain in the country, two have contracts with a club in the northern city of Arbil, in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region,

Around a third of the players did not return to Baghdad for Friday’s official festivities , including captain Yunis Mahmoud. They missed a presentation to the mother whose 12-year-old son was killed in a terrorist bomb attack while celebrating their semi-final win and whose murder inspired their surprise AFC Asian Cup 2007 final win over arch-rival Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki presented the gleaming silver Asian Cup trophy to Umm Haidar who was heavily veiled from head to toe in black. "Our Lions of The Two Rivers have taught the world an important lesson. Through determination and tenacity they snatched victory. They decided to win and they did," he said. "This courageous woman's attitude is what we expect to see from Iraqis. She showed true love for her country and her people. She was very courageous and we cannot do enough to thank her," he said.

"We come to Baghdad with great joy. It was a huge victory. We would like to present this cup as a gift to the Iraqi people and to the woman who lost her son in the terrorist attack," said substitute Ali Abbas, bursting into tears. "These men are our ambassadors in the world and they will be granted diplomatic passports," Prime Minister Maliki announced.

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