Iraqi Premier League
The Iraqi Premier League (Arabic: دوري الممتاز العراقي, Dawri Al-Mumtaz) is the highest league in the league system of Iraqi football and currently contains the top 20 Iraqi football clubs. It was founded in 1974 and is controlled by the Iraq Football Association. The Iraqi Premier League is the top tier of an extensive pyramid-like structure, operating on a system of promotion and relegation with the Iraq Division One in which two teams get relegated and two teams get promoted each season.
|Founded||18 August 1974|
|Number of teams||20 (from 2014–15)|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Iraq Division One|
|Domestic cup(s)||Iraq FA Cup
Iraqi Super Cup
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League
UAFA Club Championship
|Current champions||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (6th title)
|TV partners||Al-Iraqiya Sports
|2017–18 Iraqi Premier League|
The league was formed in 1974 when the Iraq Football Association (IFA) replaced the League of the Institutes (a league including institutes teams as well as clubs) with the Iraqi Premier League (the first nationwide clubs-only league in Iraq). The current format sees 20 teams playing 38 matches each (playing each team in the league twice, home and away), totalling 380 matches in the season.
Of the 74 teams to have competed since the inception of the league in 1974, 11 have won the title: Al-Zawraa (13), Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (6), Al-Shorta (5), Al-Talaba (5), Erbil (4), Al-Rasheed (3), Naft Al-Wasat (1), Duhok (1), Al-Jaish (1), Salahaddin (1) and Al-Minaa (1). The current champions are Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, who won the title in 2016–17.
The Iraq Football Association was founded in 1948, and soon after the foundation of the IFA, a national championship was founded which would become known as the League of the Institutes. The teams that competed in the league were a mixture of football clubs and institute teams (such as Police and Army representative teams). During its 19 seasons of existence, Al-Shorta won five titles, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya won five titles, Amanat Baghdad won five titles, Al-Jaish won one title, Al-Athori won one title, Sharikat Naft Al-Basra won one title and one season was abandoned midway through.
The 1973–74 season of the League of the Institutes included teams from all around the country, rather than just Baghdad-based teams. After the success of that season, the IFA made a decision that changed the course of Iraqi club football. During a meeting on 18 August 1974, the IFA decided to abandon the League of the Institutes and replace it with a nationwide league of clubs: the Iraqi National League, as it was known then. This decision was initially met with strong opposition but was accepted over time as the IFA refused to return to the old League of the Institutes.
The league held its first season in 1974–75 and was originally composed of ten clubs. The first ever Iraqi Premier League goal was scored by Falah Hassan of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya in a 1–1 draw with Al-Sinaa. The ten inaugural members of the new league were Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Shorta, Al-Naqil, Al-Samawa, Al-Jaish, Babil, Amanat Baghdad, Al-Rafidain, Al-Sinaa and Al-Minaa, and the league was won by Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.
The format of the Iraqi Premier League has changed multiple times throughout its existence. Below are some of the notable changes to the league's format that have happened over the years:
- In the 1984–85 season, three points were awarded for a win for the first time, but this was changed back to two points for the following season.
- In the 1986–87 season, each team played each other four times in a quadruple round-robin format; this is the only time that this has happened in the league's history.
- The first time that the Iraqi Premier League was not held in a round-robin format was when it was split into four regional groups in the 1988–89 season, which were followed by another group stage, semi-finals, a third place match and a final. During this season, if a match ended in a draw, it would go to extra time and then penalties if necessary. A team would earn three points if they won a game by two goals or more (after normal or extra time). They would earn two points if they won a game by just one goal (after normal or extra time), and they would gain one point for winning a penalty shootout. Al-Rasheed won the league this season by beating Al-Talaba on penalties in the final.
- The 1992–93 Iraqi National League saw each team play a huge 69 games as each team played each other three times, meaning that a total of 828 games were played in that season. Each player was only allowed to play 46 games in the season.
- In the 1994–95 season, three points were awarded to a winning team as opposed to two, but four points were awarded to a team that won a game by three goals or more in order to encourage attacking football. Every season after this has seen three points awarded for a victory.
- The 2000–01 Iraqi Elite League started with a qualifying round to decide which 16 teams would qualify for the league competition. 135 teams in total from all around Iraq competed in the qualifiers; for the first qualifying round they were split into various groups based on geographical position and the top-finishing teams from each group qualified for second qualifying round which consisted of more geographical-based groups. The top-finishing teams of those groups qualified to the league which itself was a 30-round competition. This led to the season being a lot longer than previous seasons, forcing the 2000–01 edition of the Iraq FA Cup to be cancelled.
- The league had been played in a round-robin format from 1989 until 2003, but after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the IFA decided to change the league system into a system consisting of group stages, drawn based on geographical position. This was to make travel easier for the clubs. The group stage system remained in place from 2003–04 up until 2010–11, and the double round-robin system returned in the 2011–12 season. It lasted for only three seasons until the group stage format returned from the 2014–15 campaign, but the double round-robin format was once again reintroduced in 2016–17.
The Iraqi Premier League trophy was designed by Iraq Football Association member Zuhair Nadhum and the design was implemented by Qahtan Salim. The materials used to make the trophy were imported from China. The trophy is a flat shield, predominantly golden in colour. In the centre of the shield is a football made from gold and mirrored pieces, with a gold map of Iraq in the centre of the ball. Inside the golden map reads the word Iraq in Arabic, with the words Premier League Shield underneath (also in Arabic) completed with the season. Surrounding the golden football are the words Iraq Football Association written in Arabic at the top and in English at the bottom in silver text. Surrounding that text is another ring, the top half of which contains the Flag of Iraq and the bottom half of which contains 18 golden stars, representing the 18 provinces of Iraq (not including Halabja). Connecting the two halves of the outer ring on both sides is the logo of the Iraq Football Association. In seasons where the league is sponsored, these two Iraq FA logos are replaced by the logo of the league's sponsor(s).
This shield was first used as the Iraqi Premier League's trophy in the 2009–10 season. Prior to that, the trophy had been frequently changed. During the 1990s, the trophy was a golden shield with a photograph of Saddam Hussein in the centre, while the trophy was a flat silver shield in the 2001–02 season, a silver trophy in the 2004–05 season and a golden trophy up until the 2009–10 campaign.
List of championsEdit
Most successful clubsEdit
|1||Al-Zawraa||13||6||1975–76, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1990–91, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2005–06, 2010–11, 2015–16|
|2||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||6||10||1974–75, 1989–90, 1991–92, 1996–97, 2004–05, 2016–17|
|3||Al-Talaba||5||8||1980–81, 1981–82, 1985–86, 1992–93, 2001–02|
|4||Al-Shorta||5||2||1979–80, 1997–98, 2002–03, 2012–13, 2013–14|
|5||Erbil||4||3||2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2011–12|
|6||Al-Rasheed||3||2||1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89|
"Baghdad's Big Four" dominanceEdit
|out of 14|
Of the four teams, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya have earned more top-four finishes (32) than any other side over the 41 completed seasons, meanwhile Al-Zawraa have won the league title 13 times, far more than any of the other sides. Al-Shorta have retained the league more recently than any of the other three teams having been crowned champions in both the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons, and Al-Talaba are the most recent team to have won the Double (Premier League and FA Cup) which they achieved in the 2001–02.
From the 1989–90 season until the 2005–06 season, the league was won by one of the four Baghdad teams every single time and this was the greatest period of dominance that the four clubs enjoyed. Even before and after this period, the league title was usually won by one the clubs.
After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, players started to leave the Baghdad-based clubs and join clubs in the North such as Erbil and Duhok in order to escape the danger of the capital city. This led to a shift in the structure of the "Big Four" and Erbil won the league three times in a row between 2007 and 2009 with Duhok winning the league in 2010. In the 2008–09 season, none of Baghdad's Big Four clubs finished in the top four and this is the only time that this has ever happened in the history of the league; the top four spots were occupied by Erbil, Al-Najaf, Duhok and Amanat Baghdad. Baghdad's Big Four have returned to dominating the league in recent seasons though, winning four out of the last five league titles.
In total, Baghdad's Big Four clubs have won 29 of the 41 Iraqi Premier League titles in history.
There are 20 clubs in the Iraqi Premier League. During the course of a season each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games (however, all matches between Baghdad's Big Four clubs are played at the neutral venue of Al-Shaab Stadium to accommodate more spectators). Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. If still equal, teams are deemed to occupy the same position. If there is a tie for the championship, for relegation, or for qualification to other competitions, a play-off match at a neutral venue decides rank. The two lowest-placed teams are relegated into the Iraq Division One, and the top two teams from the Iraq Division One are promoted in their place. Each club is allowed a maximum of three foreign players in their squad. The winners of the league qualify for the Iraqi Super Cup, a match played against the winners of the Iraq FA Cup (if the league winners also win the Iraq FA Cup, they play the league runners-up instead).
Qualification for international competitionsEdit
At present, the winners of the Iraqi Premier League qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage (while the winners of the Iraq FA Cup are admitted into the AFC Champions League qualifying rounds). If both clubs fail to fulfil AFC's Licensing Criteria for the competition (as has been the case for a while), they instead both play in Asia's second-tier tournament, the AFC Cup. The runners-up of the league are admitted into the UAFA Club Championship qualifying rounds.
Collectively, Iraqi clubs have reached twelve finals of major continental club competitions. Al-Shorta were the first team to do so when they reached the Asian Club Championship final in 1971, defeating holders Taj Tehran 2–0 in the semis. They were set to face Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final but refused to play the game in protest at the Israeli occupation of Palestine; the club itself as well as the entire Arab media considers Al-Shorta to the champions of the tournament after the subsequent expulsion of Israel from the Asian Football Confederation. Eleven years later, Al-Shorta were successful in another continental tournament, winning the 1980–82 Arab Club Champions Cup by defeating Al-Nejmeh 4–2 on aggregate in the final.
Meanwhile, Al-Rasheed won the Arab Club Champions Cup three times in a row in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Al-Rasheed also became the second Iraqi team to reach the final of the Asian Club Championship in 1989 but they lost a two-legged final on away goals to Al-Saad of Qatar. Al-Talaba reached the final of the 1995 Asian Cup Winners' Cup but they lost it 2–1 to Bellmare Hiratsuka, and five years later, Al-Zawraa lost the final of the same competition 1–0 to Shimizu S-Pulse in 2000. Erbil reached the final of Asia's second-tier tournament, the AFC Cup, twice (in 2012 and 2014) but lost both times (to Al-Kuwait and Al-Qadsia respectively). Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya finally ended the succession of defeats two years later when they edged past Indian club Bengaluru FC 1–0 in the 2016 AFC Cup Final, and they won the competition for the second consecutive season in 2017 by beating FC Istiklol by the same scoreline.
|1974–1995||No sponsor||National League|
|2011–2012||Asia Cell||Asia Cell Elite League|
|2012–2013||No sponsor||Elite League|
|2015–2016||Fuchs Petrolub||Fuchs Premier League|
|2016–present||No sponsor||Premier League|
Seasons in Iraqi Premier LeagueEdit
74 teams have taken part in the Iraqi Premier League since its first season in 1974–75 up until the 2017–18 season. The teams in bold are competing in the Iraqi Premier League in the 2017–18 season. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Shorta are the only teams to have played in every single one of the 44 Iraqi Premier League seasons.
Clubs for 2017–18 seasonEdit
The following 20 clubs are competing in the Iraqi Premier League during the 2017–18 season.
|First season in
|First season of
current spell in
|Al-Diwaniya||Iraq Division One1st in||1988–89||9||2017–18||0||n/a|
|Al-Quwa Al-Jawiyaa, b||1st||1974–75||44||1974–75||6||2016–17|
|Al-Sinaat Al-Kahrabaiyab||Iraq Division One2nd in||2017–18||1||2017–18||0||n/a|
a: Founding member of the Iraqi Premier League
b: Never been relegated from the Iraqi Premier League
- The 1976–77 season was halted midway through the second half of the season after scheduling difficulties. The Iraq Football Association decided to cancel the results from the second half of the season, and crowned Al-Zawraa the champions as they were top of the league at the halfway stage of the competition.
- The 1984–85 season was abandoned even before all of the teams had played half of their games, so the IFA did not declare any team as the champion. It was abandoned to give the Iraq national team more time to prepare for the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, after public interest in the league had declined following the national team's recent successes.
- The 2002–03 season was halted midway through the second half of the season, as the 2003 US invasion of Iraq made it too difficult to play matches in the country. The IFA decided to cancel the results from the second half of the season, and crowned Al-Shorta the champions as they were top of the league at the halfway stage of the competition.
- The 2003–04 season was abandoned midway through the first group stage round of the tournament, as the 2003 US invasion of Iraq made it too difficult to play matches in the country. The IFA decided to hold playoff games between the best performing teams (Al-Shorta, Al-Zawraa, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and Al-Naft) to decide which teams would qualify for the 2005 AFC Champions League, but could not declare a champion for the season due to the group stage format.
- The IFA called an end to the 2013–14 season on 18 June 2014 due to increased unrest in the country caused by ISIS. All teams had played well over half of their scheduled games in total but due to postponements earlier in the season, not all games from the first half of the season had been played yet. Thus, IFA member Kamil Zaghir announced the decision to declare the standings on 18 June as final, crowning Al-Shorta as the league champions, with Erbil being the runners-up.
Controversial title winsEdit
- In the 1980–81 season, Al-Shorta managed to defeat Al-Zawraa 3–0 in their final match, which was exactly the result they needed in order retain their title and be crowned champions for the second time. They finished the season on equal points and equal goal difference with Al-Talaba but more goals scored and therefore expected to be given the trophy. However, the Iraqi FA did not officially announce who the champion was until the next day when they announced that Al-Talaba were the champions due to having won more matches than Al-Shorta. This rule had never been used before and was never used again, and the decision astonished everybody. Many Al-Shorta fans claimed there was a conspiracy against their club.
- In the 1982–83 season, the two half-brothers of Saddam Hussein (Barzan Ibrahim and Watban Ibrahim) took control of the Salahaddin club, who had never won the league or cup in its history at that point. They became title challengers that season and the Ibrahims were accused of using their influence to intimidate opposition teams and cause referees to make deliberately incorrect decisions which favoured Salahaddin, such as when they were awarded a goal against Al-Shorta despite the ball not crossing the line which allowed them to win 1–0. Salahaddin needed to draw their final match of the season in order to win the league title, so the match was moved to their home in Tikrit rather than being played in Baghdad as scheduled. Salahaddin's opponents had two goals disallowed by the referee that game. They finished the season as champions without a single loss in the league.
- The following season, it is believed that Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, instructed the president of the Iraqi FA to ensure that Al-Jaish (Army Club) would win their first league title, in order to boost the morale of the Iraqi Army. Players were reportedly blackmailed into joining Al-Jaish in order to increase the quality of the team. If Al-Jaish were losing at 90 minutes, referees would add on significant amounts of stoppage time to allow them to tie the game. In the final game of the season, their opponents were given two red cards which allowed Al-Jaish to win the match and therefore win the title. They also finished the season without a single loss in the league.
- After this season, Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, established a new club called Al-Rasheed and placed them straight into the second division and they were promoted to the top division in their first season. Uday forced nearly every single player from the national team into Al-Rasheed (against their will), with the exception of a few such as Raad Hammoudi and Hussein Saeed, leading to Al-Rasheed dominating Iraqi football in the late 1980s. They won three consecutive league titles in 1986–87, 1987–88 and 1988–89. Uday also punished players who performed poorly, often by humiliating them or torturing them.
- In the 1991–92 season, Al-Zawraa played against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya on the last day of the season. If Al-Zawraa won or drew the match, they would be champions, but if Jawiya won then they would be champions. Jawiya took an early 1–0 lead, and Al-Zawraa thought they had managed to get an equaliser in the second half. However, the linesman controversially disallowed the goal due to offside. Jawiya won 1–0 and were crowned champions, meaning that decision deprived Al-Zawraa of the league title.
- Most titles: 13, Al-Zawraa
- Most consecutive title wins: 3 – joint record:
- Biggest title-winning margin: 17 points, 1995–96 (22 games); Al-Zawraa (55 points) over Al-Najaf (38 points)
- Smallest title-winning margin: 0 points, 0 GD and 2 wins – 1980–81 (11 games); Al-Talaba (8 wins) over Al-Shorta (6 wins). Both finished on 17 points and +14 goal difference, but Al-Talaba won the title due to having won two more games than Al-Shorta.
- Worst defence of a title: Duhok (champions in 2009–10, 12th place in 2010–11)
- Most wins in a season: 46, Al-Talaba (1992–93, 69 games)
- Most consecutive wins in a season: 11, Al-Shorta (1997–98)
- Most consecutive wins from beginning of season: 9 – joint record:
- Fewest wins in a season: 0 – joint record:
- Al-Rafidain (1974–75, 18 games)
- Babil (1977–78, 13 games)
- Al-Bahri (1979–80, 22 games)
- Al-Adhamiya (1980–81, 11 games)
- Salahaddin (2004–05, 16 games)
- Al-Sulaikh (2005–06, 12 games)
- Amanat Baghdad (2005–06, 12 games)
- Al-Kadhimiya (2005–06, 12 games)
- Al-Jaish (2006–07, 6 games)
- Zakho (2007–08, 14 games)
- Most losses in a season: 52, Al-Sulaymaniyah (1992–93, 69 games)
- Fewest losses in a season: 0 – joint record:
- Longest unbeaten run: 39 games, Al-Zawraa (1993–1994)
- Highest attendance, single game: 70,000, Al-Shorta v. Al-Zawraa (at Al-Shaab Stadium, December 1991)
- Most goals scored in a season: 134, Al-Zawraa (1992–93, 69 games)
- Fewest goals scored in a season: 1 – joint record:
- Most goals conceded in a season: 162, Al-Sulaymaniyah (1992–93, 69 games)
- Fewest goals conceded in a season: 5 – joint record:
- Most consecutive matches without conceding a goal: 14, Erbil (16 July 2009 – 20 March 2010)
- Best goal difference in a season: 96, Al-Talaba (1992–93, 69 games)
- Most goals scored in a season by a relegated team: 71, Karbalaa (1994–95, 46 games)
- Fewest failures to score in a match in a season: 0 (scored in every game) – joint record:
- Most points in a season: 120, Al-Zawraa (1994–95, 46 games)
- Fewest points in a season: 1 – joint record:
- Most points in a season without winning the league: 110 – joint record:
- Fewest points in a season while winning the league: 17, Al-Talaba (1980–81, 11 games)
- Youngest player: Amjad Kalaf, 13 years and 101 days (for Al-Kut v. Al-Basra, 14 January 2005)
- First ever non-Iraqi players to play in the league: Ismaël Bangoura (Guinea) for Erbil, Yousef Saeed Meziyan (Palestine) for Zakho and Soualio Bakayoko (Benin) for Zakho (2 January 2010)
- Most Premier League winners' medals: 7, Salam Hashim (3 with Al-Rasheed in 1986–87, 1987–88 and 1988–89 and 4 with Al-Zawraa in 1990–91, 1993–94, 1994–95 and 1995–96)
- Most Premier League winners' medals as captain: 3 – joint record:
- First Premier League goal: Falah Hassan (for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya v. Al-Sinaa, 4 October 1974)
- Most Premier League goals: Sahib Abbas (175)
- Most goals in a season: 36, Younis Abed Ali (1993–94, 50 games)
- Most goals in a single game: 6, Shakir Mohammed Sabbar (for Al-Ramadi v. Kirkuk, 1994–95)
- Fastest goal: 7 seconds, Alaa Abdul-Sattar (for Al-Zawraa v. Al-Kadhimiya, 25 January 2002)
- First non-Iraqi player to score a hat-trick: Jean Michel N'Lend (for Al-Shorta v. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, 18 November 2012)
- First goalkeeper to score a goal: Raad Hammoudi (for Al-Shorta v. Al-Samawa, 1975–76)
- First goalkeeper to score a goal from his own half: Ahmed Obaid (for Al-Karkh v. Al-Sulaikh, 21 February 1997)
- Top 5 all-time goalscorers
|1||Sahib Abbas||1991–2011||Salahaddin, Al-Zawraa, Al-Talaba, Karbalaa, Al-Sinaa, Al-Hindiya||175|
|2||Karim Saddam||1980–1996||Al-Sinaa, Al-Jaish, Al-Rasheed, Al-Zawraa, Al-Shorta||165|
|3||Ali Hashim||1987–2004||Al-Najaf, Al-Karkh||162|
|4||Younis Abed Ali||1983–2001||Al-Shorta, Al-Rasheed, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Estiqlal||153|
|5||Ahmed Radhi||1982–1999||Al-Zawraa, Al-Rasheed||136[a]|
|Amjad Radhi||2006–present||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Erbil|
- Amjad Radhi scored a further three goals that have since been discounted. The first was against Al-Mosul on 4 May 2010; Radhi scored in a 2–1 win for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya but the match was later awarded as a 3–0 win instead. The second was against Karbalaa on 15 August 2010; Radhi scored for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya but the game was abandoned in the 50th minute with the scores at 1–1 due to crowd trouble and was later awarded as a 3–0 win to Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya due to Karbalaa not turning up for the replay four days later. The third was against Erbil on 26 October 2016; Radhi scored in a 3–1 win for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya but the match was later annulled after Erbil withdrew from the league.
- Golden Boot award
|1979–80||Ali Hussein Mahmoud||Al-Shorta||18|
|1983–84||Ali Hussein Mahmoud||Al-Jaish||18|
|1993–94||Younis Abed Ali||Al-Shorta||36|
|1998–99||Ahmed Khudhair||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||19|
|2009–10||Amjad Radhi||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||31|
|2011–12||Hammadi Ahmad||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||27|
|2015–16||Hammadi Ahmad||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya||12|
- Biggest win: joint record:
- Most Premier League winners' medals: 3 – joint record:
- List of winning managers
|1974–75||Iraq||Abdelilah Mohammed Hassan||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1989–90||Iraq||Amer Jamil||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1991–92||Iraq||Adil Yousef||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|1996–97||Iraq||Ayoub Odisho||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|2004–05||Iraq||Sabah Abdul-Jalil||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
|2014–15||Iraq||Abdul Ghani Shahad||Naft Al-Wasat|
|2016–17||Iraq||Basim Qasim||Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya|
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- http://www.niiiis.com/94-95.html NIIIIS.com
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- "League trophy for the 2004–05 season". Soccer Iraq. April 22, 2017.
- "League trophy for the 2007–08 season". GettyImages. April 30, 2017.
- http://www.goalzz.com/main.aspx?c=4070 Goalzz.com
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- Kamil Zaghir Statement
- Kooora Forums