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There are a wide variety of sports played and followed in Iraq. Football is the most popular sport and hobby in Iraq. Football is a considerable uniting factor, following years of war and unrest. Basketball, swimming, weightlifting, bodybuilding, taekwondo, boxing, kickboxing, and tennis are also popular sports and hobbies.
Sport was only recently popular in Iraq and this was the case due to the Baath regime, which assumed power in 1968. It was primarily focused on establishing its authority by forcing society to adopt its ideology and sports did not reflect this radical orientation. In the latter part of the 1970s, however, sports began to attract attention. Due to an increasing wealth brought in by the uptick in oil prices, sports facilities have been built in different parts of the country. Particularly, football flourished after domestic football was launched and the country also hosted international competitions, drawing the participation of international football clubs. The popularity of the sport did not dampen the Iraqi enthusiasm even during the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s when young Iraqis had to serve the armed forces. The field of sports did suffer during Saddam Hussein's regime, when many athletes fled the country due to reports of abuse and torture, particularly by his son, Uday Hussein.
Football is the most popular sport in Iraq. Today, it is not uncommon to find many Iraqi villages having their own football teams. The Iraq national football team were the 2007 AFC Asian Cup Champions after defeating Saudi Arabia in the final, held in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2006, Iraq reached the football final of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, after defeating former FIFA World Cup semi-finalists South Korea and eventually finished as runners-up, winning silver. The football tournament at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, saw Iraq finish in fourth place, with the Italy national football team claiming bronze from a single goal.
The Iraqi Football Association is the governing body of football in Iraq, controlling the Iraq national football team and the Iraqi Premier League (also known as Dawri Al-Nokba). It was founded in 1948, and has been a member of FIFA since 1950, and the Asian Football Confederation since 1971.
Some of Iraq's top clubs include Al-Shorta, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Zawraa, Erbil SC, Duhok SC, Al Talaba and Najaf FC. While most athletes in Iraq are men, the country has already opened to female playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Recently, for instance, Iraq fielded its first national women's soccer team.
Basketball is a popular sport in Iraq. There are at least two leagues, the Iraq Basketball Association, the country's professional organization, runs a number of adult and youth leagues, and the Iraqi Premier League, for elite players.
- Basketball clubs
- Nauright, John; Parrish, Charles (2012). Sports Around the World: History, Culture, and Practice, Volume 3. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 295. ISBN 9781598843002.
- Spengler, Kremena; Simon, Reeva (2005). Iraq: A Question and Answer Book. Mankato, MN: Capstone. pp. 18. ISBN 0736826912.
- IFA website (in Arabic)
- Taus-Bolstad, Stacy (2004). Iraq in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company. p. 56. ISBN 9780822509349.
- "Love of basketball brings players, fans back to court - USATODAY.com". usatoday30.usatoday.com.