Having followed the entire Euro Cup 2008, I can’t help but feel some envy when seeing other nations’ flags being waved and flown all over the place. Even in North America, thousands of miles away from the action, people are very passionate about their teams and the players that represent their nations. Can’t really say the same for Assyrians, doesn’t matter what the competition is; Euro Cup, Asia Cup, World Cup, Copa America etc. Assyrians don’t have a team to begin with, so no tournament will give them any consolation.
Of course, for those living in countries that have teams representing them in these tournaments, they may feel allegiance to their host country’s team. An Assyrian living in Australia, would support the Australian team. An Assyrian living in Holland, would support the Dutch team, and so on. Obviously, there are those who have lived in Iraq for most of their lives, and they feel a natural inclination and duty to support the Iraqi national team, a team they have grown up watching and following. However, and talking to a lot of Assyrians, you just sense that something is missing. The loyalty is just not very genuine or sincere. Only an Assyrian team would get their absolute loyalty and fulfill their nationalistic desires.
No Country? No Problem!
Assyriska is our only true international professional team, and it is no wonder that it has the following of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians worldwide. But that is just a club, and not a national team. A national team can only be had if a country named Assyria exists; which it doesn’t. So, do we wait till the day we have our own country, before we can have a team to cheer for? not necessarily. I believe it is time Assyrians put their own team together, even if they are not an independent nation, and remain a part of Iraq. Just look at the Kurds, they have had their own team, that is separate from the national Iraqi team, for a few years now. This team represents the region of Kurdistan in various competitions, albeit not official ones. One such tournament is the VIVA World Cup.
VIVA Assyria at VIVA World Cup!
From July 7 to Jul 13, 5 teams will compete in the the second VIVA World Cup in Sweden, with the winner receiving the Nelson Mandela Trophy. What is interesting and significant about the participating teams, is that they are mostly from non-independent groups and nations, including Kurdistan. Wouldn’t this be the perfect place for Assyrians to start with their own team? An Assyrian team from Iraq can easily be assembled and sent to this tournament, with the help of sponsors and other groups from abroad. The mere thought of an Assyrian team playing, with hundreds of fans cheering and waving our flags, is enough to send chills down our spines. Now imagine the real thing, with our team meeting their Kurdistan counterpart in the final game and beating them. What a great source of pride would that be? Soccer after all has united nations and people in the past, and brought peace to many, so it is only natural that it does the same for us as people.
Many logistical and organizational obstacles will have to be ironed out before such a team can be assembled. Who would be the coach? would it be one of our Assyrian legends like Ammo Baba, Douglas Aziz, Ayoub Odisho, Sadi Toma? or would it be a young local coach? who would sponsor the team? where would the players be selected from? would they be from Northern Iraq where the majority of Assyrians live? or would it be a selection from Assyrians living in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon etc. To tackle such obstacles, it is important to start from a select team of local players, and expand it later. This could be a big success in the future, and organize their own international tours to cities where Assyrians reside.
The Symbolism and Magic of Soccer
Assyrians shouldn’t wait for a state before they can have their own team. FIFA may not accept us as an official member, and that is expected of course. But who cares? we are not aspiring for such big demands and recognition for now. It is all in the symbolism for now. Soccer has an amazing power, and an Assyrian team would only help our cause and make us more known to the world. Viva Assyria!