Iraq's soccer team represents an opportunity for the entire country to unite in a way that simply hasn't happened before. Its an odd thing where ideology and subcultural gaps can be shattered by a simple game.
Hundreds of pages have been ripped from the calendar since Iraqis last showed the unity and happiness that flowed across the land on Sunday.I'm not saying its going to last, and I don't think this is something that can happen overnight. But the idea that dissimilar cultures can't exist peacefully under one flag as one nation is belied by this event. If Sunni and Shia and Kurdish Iraqis truly did not think of themselves as members of the nation of Iraq, they would not have been moved by this team's win.
And it would have been foolhardy to predict a soccer team - the determined Lions of the Two Rivers - would unleash a flood of joy held back for decades by the dam of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and four-plus years of war since America toppled him.
But after the team's victory in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup, the Iraqi people seemed far ahead of their leaders in letting sectarian bygones be bygones and allowing ethnic atrocities to fade.
...The Iraq team's win dripped with symbolism, not least in the makeup of its front-line strikers: one Kurd, one Shiite, one Sunni.
At least on some level, this shows that there is a sense of national identity available to draw upon, however faint the spark. The job of their parliament, now, is to fan these flames, rather than blow them out with bullheaded politics.
The question remains in my mind, though. If England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, (independent, fierce nations who literally slaughtered each other) can all come together, albeit reluctantly, to call themselves Britons, and along the way become one of the most expansive empires the world has ever seen...why do we begrudge Iraqis the same possibility?
Update: Dafydd has a well written post titled Miracle on Sand on this same topic here. Enjoy.