‘It was all about the will to win’
By Sayed Ali, Staff Reporter / GULF NEWS Published: July 31, 2007, 23:12
Dubai: The Iraqi skipper Younis Mahmoud who led his country to their first Asian Cup said it was the great will of the Iraqi players that helped them win the title.
“Despite the suffering of our people in Iraq and the poor preparation, we fought hard armed with strong determination and firm will in all matches which played a significant role in our great victory,” Younis told Gulf News at Movenpick Hotel yesterday after the Iraqi team arrived from Jakarta.
He said the Iraqi players do not have to think of good preparation.
“Our players were heros. They know the tragic and disastrous conditions of Iraq. The only thing we were thinking of was to bring joy for our people.
“And we put that in front of us as a target must be achieved at any cost. We succeeded in making the Iraqi people happy and united as they are and they will stay the same way.”
The Iraqi skipper expressed gratitude and appreciation to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for honouring them even before they returned to Baghdad.
“This a great moment for us to be honoured by His Highness whom we know as a great sportsman. I take this opportunity to thank him and the UAE people for the great support they gave us until we achieved this excellent success,” said Younis.
The striker, who made the Iraqi people united, said no one was expecting them to reach the final.
“Most of the expectations were of other teams and some of them couldn’t reach the semifinals. But we as Iraqi players spared no effort in winning the title as a valuable gift for our people.”
Younis said after they beat Australia in Group A, they recaptured confidence following a 1-1 draw against hosts Thailand.
“We drew against Oman to top the group and beat Vietnam in the quarterfinals. In the semis we fought hard against South Korea. It was the most difficult match, because the Koreans are strong.
“Thank God, we won on penalties and reached the final. It was a great chance for us and it may not be repeated again. We didn’t let it slip from our grip and clinched our first Asian Cup.”
The 24-year-old Younis is playing as a professional for Al Garafa club in Qatar, said it’s a successful experience for him in the Qatari league.
“Not only me, all the Iraqi players gained experience by playing as professionals outside Iraq. For me, I have one more year with Al Garafa, but I am thinking of playing in Europe. If there is any offer for me, I think they will have to speak to the Al Garafa chairman.”
He said the players who drew his attention most in the Asian Cup were – UAE’s Ahmad Dada, Malek Maaz of Saudi Arabia, Takahara of Japan and Sebastian Soria of Qatar.
Younis does not like the practice of staging the Asian Cup in four countries.
“We suffered from fatigue by travelling from one airport to another. I think holding it in one country will make it a success. The 2011 Asian Cup to be held in Qatar will be a very successful one,” said Younis.