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Iraq Football Players Leaving Country after Celebrations

Many members of Iraq's national football (soccer) team were scheduled to leave Iraq Saturday - just one day after ceremonies honoring them for their win last week at the Asian Cup championship in Jakarta.

Some players have contracts with teams outside Iraq and live abroad.

The Iraqi team has not played at home for 17 years due to fears of violence since the start of the 2003 U.S. invasion and to international sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime before that. The team practices in Jordan.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed Iraq's national team to celebrations in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

Most Baghdad residents were barred from the celebration because of security concerns.

Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the Asian Cup final, sparking a rare moment of national jubilation.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.