Saturday, July 28, 2007

Perspective: In hope, a dream of unity

Forget the "benchmarks" that Baghdad's politicians are showing little inclination to meet; the best hope in recent memory for national reconciliation in Iraq came Wednesday in the form of a shootout — not your conventional sectarian or insurgent affair, but a series of penalty kicks that settled an Asian cup soccer semifinal in Iraq's favor. Iraq's upset victory over highly rated South Korea has earned it a showdown on Sunday against — boy, do the gods of soccer ever have a wicked sense of humor — Saudi Arabia. The news drew tens of thousands of Iraqis of all stripes out onto the street in a joyous celebration, which was tempered by two suicide bombings that killed more than 50 fans.

Iraq's goalkeeper Noor Sabri, who made the vital save that allowed his countrymen to prevail 4-3, recognized the significance of the team's triumph: "You know the situation of the difficulties in Iraq," he told the Associated Press after the game. "What we can achieve inside the field, it's a modest thing we can give to our people. We have to show them we are sharing with them the celebrations."

Just as Iraq's team includes Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, so did the victory celebration span all of Iraq's divisions. Not only were Shi'ite and Sunni communities celebrating with equal intensity in the capital, many had risked life and limb to watch the game together with old soccer pals from opposite sects.

Read the rest at Time