Arabs strike gold at Olympics

Arab countries will walk away from the Olympics with a higher number of gold medals than ever before and squads are now looking to build on this success in future tournaments.

    Iraq's football performance caused a stir at the Olympics

    Morocco was the Arab country highest on the medals table at the end of the Olympics, winning two gold medals and a silver in running events.

    Egyptian athletes did well in wrestling and boxing events, winning one gold and three bronze medals, the first medals for the country since the 1984 Olympics.

    The UAE won its first ever medal after a member of the ruling family won a gold medal in a shooting competition.

    Syria was the last Arab country on the table after its boxer took a bronze.

    Spirited performance

    But it was the Iraqi football team who attracted the most attention during the event with a spirited performance that gave them surprise wins over Portugal, Costa Rica and Australia.

    The squad was denied a bronze medal, however, after they were beaten in an emotional game against Italy on Friday.

    Italian players wore black arm bands in honour of the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni who was killed by an armed group in Iraq hours before the game.

    The Iraqi captain presented a bouquet of white flowers to his Italian counterpart to express his team's condolences.

    But Iraq did not walk away without any recognition. On Sunday, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) announced that Iraq and Argentina have jointly won the Olympic FIFA Fairplay award which rewards loyalty and good conduct on and off the pitch.


    The teams succeed Brazil who won the trophy at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

    'Get our act together'

    As the Olympics come to a close, many squads are looking forward to future events.

    Shaikh Ahmad Muhammad Hashir al-Maktum, the UAE shooting gold medalist, said that the emphasis had to be be put on youth training.

    Emirati boys hold up a picture of
    shooting champion al-Maktum

    "The children have to start now ... they have to start training tomorrow," al-Maktum told reporters at a press conference in Dubai.

    "If the UAE wants more medals, then we have to get our act together and start preparing our children in specific individual sports," he added.


    Haydar al-Fukaiki, director of Iraqi Sports, consultant to the Iraq Olympic Committee, said the success of the Iraqi football team showed anything was possible with the right attitude.

    "Determination was a big factor. These guys felt that they were at the centre of the world's attention and they had to perform," he said.

    Al-Fukaiki said the team would be playing in World Cup qualifiers next month.

    "The next step is that these guys play teams of equal standard and also make sure that they have the facilities that they need and that they cooperate with other clubs."

    Many members of the Iraqi football squad have had offers from European clubs as a result of their performance in the Olympics.

    A closing ceremony will be held on Sunday night to mark the end of the Olympics which was hailed as a great success.

    The 2000 Olympics in Sydney saw Arab countries win a record 14 medals, most of which were bronze.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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