Sunday, June 15, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 15 Jun 2008

From MNF-I, Rashid Olympics kick off with youth summer sports (Baghdad).

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – More than 400 soccer players from across southern Baghdad crowded a chalk-lined soccer field in the Aamel community to kick off the opening ceremony for the Rashid Olympics June 14 only minutes after the Iraqi National team defeated China in the Asia Championship tournament.

Approximately 332 teams from 14 communities began the soccer tournament, which will take place across the district over the next three months until a champion is crowned at the closing ceremony in September 2008.

“The ceremony went well,” said Capt. Thao Reed, the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad. “It exceeded expectations and it was all coordinated by the local governances from the areas.”

As the military liaison for the event, Reed provided little assistance to the District Council and the Neighborhood Councils in Rashid.

“We are very, very proud of how the district councils coordinated with the Iraqi Security Forces for the opening ceremony,” Reed stated. “They planned, secured, and coordinated all aspects of the event. It was a very well-done Iraqi-led event.”

There was very little involvement on the part of Coalition Forces, explained Reed.

“What the councils are doing for people is good,” Reed explained. “It was a very professional environment and everyone had a good time.” Soldiers from the 43rd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division provided security for the opening ceremony.

“This is the first time that all the communities in the district have gathered together,” said Col. Haythm Abedal Khather, the commander of the 43rd Bde., 11th IA Div. “Events like these put hope in the hearts of Iraqis, and makes them united.”

The tournament took place on an important day for Iraq because the Iraqi National Team won today, said Habeeb Lafta, the Rashid District Council Sports director.

“The champion will gather the hearts and minds of the players because they choose the sports instead of violence,” Lafta stated. “I believe these kids will be the future of Iraqi soccer.” Before the ceremonial kick off to initiate the game, each team proudly displayed Iraqi flags while chanting the names of their communities.

“We were very glad to get the uniforms, and we are ready to start the tournament,” said Arkan Kadhim, a player for the Forat team.

“We are so happy the Iraqi National team won today,” added Hesham Kareem, player from the Aamel community. Events for young girls are tentatively scheduled to begin in July, said Reed.

This winter season in Iraq will bring a few indoor sports to the youths of Rashid, such as ping pong, basketball, and boxing.