Iraq are elated with their quarter-final match scheduled in the Thai capital.
|Iraqi defender Ali Hussein Rehema (L) shares
a light moment with teammate Younis Mahmoud
during a training session in Bangkok [AFP]
Iraq’s Brazilian born football coach believes the images of Iraqis celebrating qualification for the quarter-finals of the 14th Asian Cup are a great inspiration to his side.
Jorvan Vieira, who took charge of the team only eight weeks ago, believes the rare scenes of jubilation in the players’ war-torn homeland would motivate them to beat Vietnam on Saturday and reach the semi-finals.
“This is our target here, to bring something to the people of Iraq,” Vieira said.
“We have seen photographs and TV pictures of how they are celebrating. This is worth more than any salary I could ever ask for.”
Television footage of celebrating Iraqis has been lapped up by the Iraq squad in Bangkok, and even their Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira has been caught up in the emotion, getting reports from his wife in Morocco about how the Iraqi expatriates celebrated there.
“I was very impressed how they came out after the match against Oman,” Vieira said.
“They came out on the streets, in their cars with their flags. This is the best salary you can receive as a coach.”
Travel restrictions have prevented fans journeying from Iraq to watch the team, but hundreds from the Iraqi Diaspora have made the journey to Thailand, with more expected to arrive ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Iraq’s preparations for the tournament were far from plain sailing, with unrest in the squad, poor training facilities and clubs reluctant to release players to the national team.
But on the field they have been one of the most consistent teams, drawing with Oman and hosts Thailand and thumping pre-tournament favourites Australia 3-1.
Defender Ali Hussein Rehema said he hoped the team could make history for the people back home.
“We showed our determination against Thailand and Australia… we have got to the quarter-finals and hopefully we will get to the semi-finals,” he said.
“We want something new for our history and to bring happiness to the Iraqi people.”