The unrest in northern and central Iraq is hampering the national under-21 football team’s preparation for the forthcoming Asian Games with only 12 squad members reporting at the training session in Baghdad.
The 17th Asian Games will be held in Incheon, South Korea, from September 19 and the squad is due to fly out to Turkey on Wednesday for a two-week training camp.
However, the conflict at home – including US fighter jets bombing positions of self-declared jihadists in northern Iraq – has impacted the training routine for the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’.
Defender Salam Shakir told SNTV that trouble in the country meant most of the players found it difficult to focus on the game. However, he added that the conflict also worked as a motivating factor, urging the players to come up with something positive.
“Definitely, the unrest has an impact on the team, both positive and negative,” said Shakir. “When the situation is not okay in Iraq, players are worried about their families, relatives and friends. And this has a negative impact.
“On the other hand, players will be more determined to achieve positive results to help people be happier and forget this catastrophic situation.”
The Iraqi team held a training camp in Tbilisi last month where it beat their Georgian counterparts 1-0.
Iraq won gold at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, India, and bagged second-place in 2006 where lost to Qatar.