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The National Sport of Iraq is Soccer.

Soccer in Iraq is passionate, bridging communities and fostering national pride through its distinctive fan culture.

To learn more about sports culture in Iraq, read our article about the most popular sports in Iraq.


#1 History of Soccer

  • 1924: Formation of the Iraqi Football Association (IFA).
  • 1948: Iraq participates in the first Arab Football Championship and finishes third.
  • 1976: Iraq participates in the Olympic soccer tournament for the first time.
  • 1986: Iraq qualifies for its first-ever FIFA World Cup, held in Mexico.
  • 2007: Iraq wins the Asian Football Confederation Cup for the first time in history.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Soccer serves as a pivotal aspect of Iraq’s cultural identity. During times of political turmoil and conflict, the sport has remained a unifying force, bringing people together and providing an escape from adversity.

Local leagues and neighborhood games are a common sight across Iraq, with soccer clubs fostering a shared sense of community and pride. Major events like national team matches and international tournaments, particularly the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup, create a vibrant and spirited atmosphere, with fans gathering to support their team.

Players and fans alike participate in various traditions such as wearing team jerseys, exchanging scarves, and painting flags on their faces during the games, expressing their passion and appreciation for the sport that transcends regional differences.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
  • Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
  • Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
  • Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
  • Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
  • Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
  • Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
  • Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
  • Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.

#4 Modern Development of Soccer

In contemporary times, soccer in Iraq has been influenced by international developments, with local clubs and players increasingly integrating the latest trends and techniques to improve their competitiveness. The sport has been embraced by the younger generation, with social media playing a crucial role in linking fans and players.

The growth of soccer academies and talent development programs in Iraq has been an essential factor in nurturing raw talent and improving the quality of local leagues. Despite the challenges brought by political and economic factors, investments in infrastructure, and grassroots programs are being made to ensure the sustainability of the sport in Iraq.

Despite significant obstacles, Iraqi soccer players have made strides in recent decades, showcasing their skills in international leagues outside of Iraq. The resilience and adaptability shown by the sport’s community have helped the nation maintain its potential for further growth and success in soccer.

#5 Soccer and the Olympics

Soccer has been a part of the Olympic Games since the early 1900s, and Iraq made its Olympic soccer debut in 1976 at the Montreal Games. Over the years, the Iraqi national soccer team has participated in multiple Olympic Games, showcasing the skills of young players and gaining global recognition.

The inclusion of soccer in the Olympics has allowed countries like Iraq to participate on a global stage, fostering a sense of national unity and pride. The international exposure provided by the Olympic Games has also contributed to raising the profile of Iraqi soccer and securing its place in the world sports community.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Younis Mahmoud: A celebrated striker and captain of the national team, Mahmoud’s defining moment came when he scored the winning goal in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup final, earning Iraq their first-ever title.
  2. Ahmed Radhi: Widely regarded as the best Iraqi soccer player of all times, Radhi boasts a remarkable scoring record and was the first Iraqi player to score a goal in the FIFA World Cup (1986).
  3. Emad Mohammed: A prolific goalscorer who represented Iraq at various international competitions, Mohammed played a crucial role in Iraq’s spectacular run at the 2004 Olympic Games, helping the team to finish in fourth place.
  4. Nashat Akram: Known for his exceptional dribbling and playmaking abilities, Akram was an instrumental part of Iraq’s 2007 AFC Asian Cup-winning team and was nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007.

#7 Where to watch Soccer

  • Live broadcasts and streaming: Channels like Al Jazeera Sports and Al Kass TV offer coverage of major soccer events. Streaming platforms such as Live Soccer TV and MyCujoo also provide access to matches.
  • Iconic stadiums: For a live experience in Iraq, visit notable venues like the Al-Shaab Stadium (Baghdad), Karbala Sports City Stadium (Karbala), and Basra International Stadium (Basra).

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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