Iraqi musicians starred at the opening ceremony of the Arabian Gulf Cup on Friday.
The event at Basra International Stadium in Iraq kicked off the two-week football tournament. The opening match featured the host nation taking on Oman, with the tie ending 0-0.
Despite local reports promising his appearance, Kadim Al Sahir did not perform, however, the superstar crooner's absence didn't diminish the strong performances by Hussam Alrassam and Rahma Riad.
Alassam is experienced at channelling the emotions of such an occasion.
His recording of the Iraq national team's official team song, Jeeb El Kass (Bring the Cup), sound-tracked the team's journey to becoming the 2007 Asian Cup champions.
Amid a recital of poetry by Hazim Jabir and appearances by popular Iraqi actors Enas Talib and Jawad Al Shakarchi in elaborate traditional costumes, Al-Rasam took the stage for a patriotic folk song extolling Iraq's cultural contributions to the world.
"We are the children of culture and we are a beacon to the world," he sang over thumping percussion.
Riad’s appearance came in the nick of time. There was heavy traffic leading into the stadium and reports suggested her scheduled performance would have to be scrapped. But the singer — known for pan-Arab hits Al Kawkab and Waed Menni — eventually made it to the venue and performed a spirited medley of hits during the half-time break.
Without a stage to play on, Riad improvised and took to strolling around the perimeter of the pitch during her performance.
She expressed her pride at being involved in the tournament.
“I am proud to be the daughter of this great country, and I am very happy with my participation between my family and my people in such an honourable sporting event befitting our beloved Iraq and its bright image.”
Running for its 25th event, Iraq's staging of the Arabian Gulf Cup is a coup for the local footballing community.
The tournament comes after last year's decision by football governing body Fifa to lift a ban on international competitions in Iraq that had been in place due to security concerns.
The Arabian Gulf Cup concludes with the final match on January 19.