'We are all Iraqis': Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid congratulates Iraq on Gulf Cup win

The hosts won 3-2 in the final played in Basra

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has congratulated Iraq on their 3-2 Gulf Cup win against Oman.

Thousands of fans took to the streets after the match, waiving the Iraqi flag and dancing.

Cars were honking in rhythmic succession as fans cheered: “Go, go the Lions of Mesopotamia.”

The victory was marred by a deadly crush at Basra International Stadium hours before the final that killed at least two people and injured more than 60.

In a close encounter that went into extra time, Iraq took the lead through midfielder Ibrahim Bayesh in the 24th minute.

Ten minutes into added time in normal time, Omani midfielder Salaah Al Yahyaei equalised from the penalty spot, sending the match into extra time.

Midfielder Amjad Attwan put Iraq ahead after 116 minutes with another penalty but Omani striker Omar Al Malki pulled level three minutes later with a header.

Iraqi defender Manaf Younis scored the winning goal two minutes into added time of extra time.

Sheikh Mohammed shared his congratulations on Twitter.

“Iraq felt happiness today after a long wait and patience, and along with it, all of the nations and hearts felt the happiness,” he said.

“We are all Iraqis in happiness, We are all Iraqis in victory.

“Congratulations to our family and loved ones in Iraq and thank you to the people of Al Basra and the people of Iraq for their well-organisation [of the event] and hospitality.”

At the end of the match, Iraqi players hugged each other as they cried.

The fans shouted: “Long live Iraq” and “Oh Iraq, we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for you.”

Outside the stadium and in Baghdad, fireworks lit up the night sky.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani shared his congratulations on social media.

“The cup is Iraqi, our lions are our pride who raised our heads high; a tribute to them and our loyal and proud fans,” Mr Al Sudani said on Twitter.

“Congratulations on winning the Gulf Cup 25, and thank God and everyone who participated and contributed to the success of the most beautiful tournament.”

Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid, chairman of the UAE Football Association, congratulated Iraq “for the crowning of its team as the champion of Gulf 25 for the fourth time in its history”.

“We watched a beautiful and enjoyable final match and an exemplary performance,” he said.

“We thank everyone who contributed to the success of the important Gulf sporting event, which brought us together in Basra, the city of ancient Arab civilisation and history.”

The eight-team tournament kicked off on January 6, bringing together teams from Iraq, Yemen and the six GCC states — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

On Monday, Iraq beat Qatar 2-1 and hours later Oman beat Bahrain 1-0 to set up the final match of the tournament.

Iraq is hosting the biennial regional competition for the first time in more than four decades, after enduring wars, diplomatic isolation and instability after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis have celebrated the event as a triumph of sports diplomacy, part of continuing efforts to heal a political rift between their country and its Gulf neighbours, and recovery as a footballing nation.

They hoped hosting the event would turn a new page in the country's troubled history and represent a crucial step towards full national recovery, mainly by attracting sorely needed foreign investment.

Updated: January 20, 2023, 7:10 AM