Iraqis hope their government can follow the lead of their football team.
|Nashat Akram: Looking to test himself against
the world’s best [AFP]
Nashat Akram is poised to become the first Iraqi to play in one of Europe’s major football leagues after being linked with top-flight clubs in England, Spain and Italy.
Akram, who is out of contract with Saudi club Al Shabab, says his agent is in talks with several European clubs, and he hopes his performances at the Asian Cup will earn him a lucrative contract.
“Everyone in Iraq wants to play in Europe, I love the clubs there, I love the Spanish, English and Italian leagues,” Akram told Reuters.
“Iraqi people want to make it for themselves and for their country. I’d love to be the first Iraqi to do that.
“I want the challenge, I want to test myself and train with the best players, learn the best tactics.”
The 23-year-old has been instrumental in taking the war-torn country to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup for the first time in 31 years.
Iraq’s victories have caused rare jubilation in Baghdad, where thousands of people have taken to the streets.
Another Keano fan
The midfield playmaker is most excited by interest shown by newly-promoted English side Sunderland, whose manager Roy Keane was one of his boyhood idols.
“Roy Keane was my favourite player, my hero. I watched him when I was young,” he said.
“He is the most special player and I would be delighted to join his team and learn from him.”
Akram said he hoped to find a new team soon and will opt for a club that could offer him the best deal.
“I want a serious contract, long term, I want this to really work,” he said.
His next match for Iraq will be in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup against South Korea in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.