2-in-1: La Liga Loving Iraqis Celebrate Victories Over Barça and Daesh

Published May 22nd, 2017 - 10:04 GMT
Soldier holds up an Iraqi flag (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)
Soldier holds up an Iraqi flag (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

by Rosie Alfatlawi

Nothing sets the Middle East alight like La Liga. Arabs’ passion for the Spanish premier league and its two biggest teams has often been a source of bemusement for visitors to the region.

There are no traffic jams on the streets of Amman or Baghdad like those during the “Clásico” derby, and no local rivalry fires debate like that between fans of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

So, on Sunday night when Madrid pipped their rivals to win the championship not even an Islamophobic US President speaking on Islam in Saudi Arabia could distract Arab social media from the football.

Iraq is no exception to this collective mania. However, while the question of whether Real are the heroes or the villains might divide the nation, love for another kind of team unites Iraqis.

Counter-terrorism troops within the Iraqi Special Forces have fought a long, difficult battle against Daesh in Mosul. But, with only a few neighborhoods remaining in extremist hands, the government fighters on Sunday declared their task done.

Special forces spokesman Sabah al-Numan announced that his troops had completed their initial mission. He clarified that the “Mukafahat al-Irhab” were ready “to support any other forces if we are ordered to by the Prime Minister".

The coincidence of counter-terrorist and Real victories on the same day was too good for some Iraqi Madrid supporters to resist.

Today, the Counter-terrorism Service has completed its duties in the city of Mosul, and the 'royal' club has also completed its duties in the Spanish league a little while ago. What a coincidence! #Messages_to_Mosul #Hala Madrid

With over 5,700 likes and 168 shares, it is clear that the parallel of these images has captured Iraqi imaginations.

They are both kings.

Today, what a great coincidence. Daesh has lost the battle and Barcelona have lost the championship.

There is no lovelier coincidence. The bravery of the Counter-terrorism Service and the ingenuity of Real.

Barcelona and Daesh: victory is complete.

The Iraqi Special Operations Forces entered the Daesh stronghold on November 1 last year, to begin a concerted effort to oust the militants. To give an idea of their sacrifice, between October 2016 and January this year an estimated 500 Iraqi soldiers were killed in eastern Mosul, while over 3,000 were injured, according to US military figures.

While the task might be over for the Counter-terrorism Service, other elements of the army, as well as militias loyal to the government, continue to battle the islamist group in several districts of the city. The UN has warned that another 200,000 people could be displaced by fighting in the coming days. 


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