Gulf Cup: Ahmed Yasin represents the 'new Iraq'

Ahmed Yasin is unknown in Sweden, where he plays as a professional, but in his homeland, Iraq, he looked upon as a bright hope.

His nickname is "Cristiano" because of his looks. Baghdad-born Ahmed Yasin, 21, plays in the same position as Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and they are both international footballers, although the similarities begin to disappear thereafter.

Yasin, whose family moved from Iraq to Sweden in 1994, plays his club football for Orebro SK (OSK), recently relegated from the Swedish top-flight.

He is not a big star, but that changes when he represents his homeland for he is seen as the brightest hope in what his coach terms "the new Iraq".

He will play for Iraq against the UAE on Friday night in the final of the Gulf Cup in Bahrain's National Stadium.

Yasin missed a penalty in Tuesday's semi-final penalty shoot out victory against Bahrain, but his teammates did not as the three-time Gulf Cup champions triumphed 4-2 in front of a full house.

Yasin's status in Iraq has led to one Swedish newspaper describing his football life as Jekyll and Hyde. He is popular in his homeland, yet barely known in Sweden.

His club think he has potential to improve, but he was not a regular starter last season, although he featured more towards the close as his side went down.

Yasin's new agent said that the Swedish second division is not the place for an international footballer.

Yet his player is under contract and there is no rush of bigger clubs waiting to sign him, especially as he has done little in Sweden's top league to convince others to show interest.

Yasin signed for Orebro, a university city of 107,000 in central Sweden, in 2011 from BK Forward, a smaller third division team in the same town.

He played there with Jiloan Hamad, born in Azerbaijan but, like Yasin, of Kurdish descent.

Hamad chose to play for Sweden and has shone as the captain of Malmo, the 2010 Swedish champions. Like another Swedish immigrant Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hamad became an international after excelling in his adopted home.

Yasin is still to excel in Sweden and will never play for the Swedish national side, but he is already a star for Iraq.


Ahmed Khalil v Noor Sabri

The Iraq goalkeeper has conceded just once in four matches and had kept a clean sheet for 330 minutes before Hussain Ali Baba beat him in their semi-final. Khalil will have to come up with something special to get past him.

Mohanad Salem v
Younis Mahmoud

Picked ahead of Hamdan Al Kamali for the semi-finals, Salem turned in a sturdy performance against Kuwait. Mahmoud, after his goal against Bahrain in their semi-final, will be a stiffer challenge, but Salem has worked well alongside Mohammed Ahmed.

Omar Abdulrahman v
Ahmed Yasin

Voted the Best Arab Player of 2012, Yasin has not had a great tournament up to now. But the final could just be the spur he needs. And, of course, he will have the added incentive of matching his talents against the classy Abdulrahman.


UAE v Iraq in Gulf Cups

UAE 0 wins

Iraq 3 wins

Draws 6

The recent results

2011 Asian Cup
UAE 0 Iraq 1

2010 Gulf Cup
UAE 0 Iraq 0

2009 UAE International Cup
UAE 0 Iraq 1

2008 Friendlies
UAE 0 Iraq 1
UAE 2 Iraq 2

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