As part of the segment of The National's Football in Times of Crisis series focusing on Iraq, Ahmed Rizvi picks the five best players ever to emerge from the country.
Iraq’s most capped player with 139 appearances, Mahmoud is a live wire who leaves it all on the pitch. Captain of the team when Iraq won the 2007 Asian Cup, Mahmoud, who has the map of Iraq tattooed on his arms, scored the winning goal in the final of that tournament against Saudi Arabia. The 32-year-old striker is second on Iraq’s list of all-time goalscorers with 53, eight shy of Hussein Saeed’s tally.
Emmanuel Baba Dawud
Better known as “Ammo” Baba, the late Dawud is a legend of Iraqi football. An ethnic Assyrian Christian, he was a member of Iraq’s first international team and made 17 appearances from 1957-66, scoring 11 times. A prolific goalscorer at club level, he also coached the national team and was one of the few men who openly confronted Uday Hussein, the notorious president of the Iraq Football Association.
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Widely regarded as Iraq’s best player of all-time, Radhi had a phenomenal goalscoring record at international level, netting 42 times in 73 appearances between 1982-1997. He also scored Iraq’s only goal at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, in the 2-1 defeat to Belgium. After the World Cup, Uruguayan side Nacional made a US$1 million (Dh3.6m at today’s rate) offer to Radhi’s club Al Rasheed for his services, but it was rejected. In 1988, he was voted Asian Footballer of the Year.
A member of Iraq’s “golden generation” of the 1980s, Saeed heads the list of the country’s all-time scorers with 61 goals from 126 matches. The tally puts him at No 14 on the list of the top goalscorers in international football. Saeed spent his entire club career with one team, playing 14 years with Al Talaba.
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