Iraqi Central League
The Iraqi Central League, also known as the League of the Institutes (Arabic: دوري المؤسسات, romanized: Dawri Al-Muassasat) due to containing a mixture of clubs and institute-representative teams, was the top-level division of football in central Iraq between 1948 and 1974 and contained 15 teams in its final season.
|Number of teams||15|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Iraqi Central Second Division|
|Domestic cup(s)||Iraqi Central FA Cup|
Iraqi Central Perseverance Cup
|International cup(s)||Asian Club Championship|
|Last champions||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|Most championships||Haris Al-Maliki|
It was controlled by the Iraq Football Association (IFA) and was played under a variety of different formats including a double-elimination format, a round-robin format and a double round-robin format. Despite being a regional championship, it was considered by fans and the media to be the primary league in Iraq and the Central League winners were selected to participate in the Asian Club Championship rather than champions of the other regional leagues in Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul.
All four regional leagues folded in 1974 and were replaced by a single nationwide league of clubs called the Iraqi National League. The most successful team in the tournament's history was Haris Al-Maliki, who won the first seven championships in a row. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya claimed six titles in total while Amanat Baghdad and Al-Shorta each won five.
The Iraqi Central League was founded in 1948, less than a month after the foundation of the Iraq Football Association, and was only open to teams from central Iraq (i.e. the capital city of Baghdad). In 1956, the tournament's format was changed to a double-elimination format and its name became the Iraqi Central Cup Championship. Under this new system, teams who were knocked out early would be relegated to the lower division (which was also a double-elimination tournament). In 1961, a round-robin system was introduced, and in 1962, the Iraqi Central Perseverance Cup was introduced as a match played at the end of the season between the winners and runners-up of the league. In 1963, the league was renamed to the Iraqi Central League Championship; this name lasted for just two seasons, as the league was renamed the Iraqi Central Premier League at the start of the 1965–66 season, the first season to feature a double round-robin format.
The 1966–67 season was the only season that was not completed; it had to be abandoned due to the Six-Day War. The 1971–72 season saw the league's name change for the final time as it became known as the Iraqi Central First Division. For the 1973–74 season, the Iraq FA decided to allow teams from outside of Baghdad to enter the tournament for the first time, as the league increased to 15 teams. Despite including teams from other provinces, the 1973–74 season was still considered to be the Iraqi Central League. That season also saw the foundation of the Iraqi Central FA Cup, a knockout cup competition that was held alongside the Central League. These would be the last ever editions of the Central League and Central FA Cup, as on 18 August 1974, the Iraq FA decided to abolish them along with the regional competitions in Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul, and replaced them all with the Iraqi National League and Iraq FA Cup.
The decision was met with strong opposition from the Police and Army sports authorities, who decided to field weak teams for Al-Shorta's and Al-Jaish's opening matches in the new Iraqi National League, but the suffering of heavy losses combined with the stern refusal of the IFA to bring back the regional leagues led to them eventually accepting the new league.
List of championsEdit
Note: Maslahat Naqil Al-Rukab and Amanat Al-Asima's titles are attributed to Amanat Baghdad, and Al-Firqa Al-Thalatha's title is attributed to Al-Jaish. This is because these two clubs were formed by the merging of the aforementioned teams with other sides.
Most successful clubsEdit
|1||Haris Al-Maliki||7||1948–49, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1951–52, 1952–53, 1953–54, 1954–55|
|2||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||6||1955–56, 1957–58, 1961–62, 1963–64, 1972–73, 1973–74|
|3||Amanat Baghdad||5||1956–57, 1958–59, 1960–61, 1964–65, 1970–71|
|Al-Shorta||1962–63, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1971–72|
Winning managers from 1956–1974Edit
|1956–57||Iraq||Ismail Mohammed||Amanat Baghdad|
|1957–58||Iraq||Aziz Jassim Al-Hajia||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1958–59||Iraq||Nassir Yousef||Amanat Baghdad|
|1960–61||Iraq||Salman Jassim||Amanat Baghdad|
|1961–62||Iraq||Salih Faraj||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1963–64||Iraq||Shawqi Aboud||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1964–65||Iraq||Ismail Mohammed||Amanat Baghdad|
|1965–66||Iraq||Abdelilah Mohammed Hassan||Al-Jaish|
|1967–68||Iraq||Mohammed Najib Kaban||Al-Shorta|
|1968–69||Iraq||Mohammed Najib Kaban||Al-Shorta|
|1969–70||Iraq||Mohammed Najib Kaban||Al-Shorta|
|1970–71||Iraq||Mohammed Thamir||Amanat Baghdad|
|1971–72||Iraq||Mohammed Najib Kaban||Al-Shorta|
|1972–73||Iraq||Abdelilah Mohammed Hassan||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1973–74||Iraq||Abdelilah Mohammed Hassan||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
Only one team from this era competed in a major continental competition, and that was 1969–70 champions Al-Shorta who qualified for the 1971 edition of the AFC Champions League. Al-Shorta managed to reach the final of the competition, winning all the matches they had played, but refused to face Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final in protest at the Israeli occupation of Palestine, instead waving the Palestinian flag around the field. They were regarded as champions in the Iraqi and Arab media (the Al-Mal'ab newspaper headline the following day read: "The Champions of Asia Return to Baghdad") and were greeted with a heroes' reception upon their return to the country; Israel were subsequently expelled from the AFC.