Accessibility links

Iraqi Football Fans Prepare for Bronze Medal Match Against Italy - 2004-08-26

Iraq's Olympic football team will play for the Bronze Medal on Friday. About 10,000 Iraqi immigrants live in Greece and you can be sure most, if not all, will be either watching Friday's game against Italy on the television or at the stadium in Thessoloniki. VOA's Rebecca Ward spoke with a few of them in the Omonia Square neighborhood of Athens.

Omonia Square is home to immigrants from all over the world, including a number of Greece's 10,000 Iraqis. They gather on the sidewalks of their neighborhood to socialize, talk about home and, most recently, football.

This Iraqi man has lived in Greece for two years. He says he's thrilled to see Iraq play in the Olympics, and he'll be going to the game.

"With my brother and too much friends. If you like it you come. If you don't like it, you stay and watch television," he said.

In a nearby Kurdish restaurant, an Iraqi man named Ali says it is the first time that Iraqis have come this far in the Olympics and that's why everyone is so pleased.

Ali adds that he was at work during the game with Portugal last week, but he worried the whole time about how they were doing.

The restaurant's owner, Sarkawt, has lived in Greece for the past seven years. He just came back from a visit this week to Iraq, where everyone has been watching Olympic football.

"They have time for game," he said. "Everything closed, all closed. Shops closed. They not go out. All watched TV. Cause they have satellite and they see live TV."

Sarkawt also says Iraqis had lost touch with football over the past 30 years. But now, he says, thanks to the Iraqi football team, interest in the game is coming back.