With penalty kicks, the match between the Iraqi police and Erbil teams ended with Erbil’s victory, but what happened after the final whistle of the match was greater than the qualification of one team and the exclusion of another from the competitions. Injuries occur.
On social media, these events met with interaction, and some said that what happened was the result of “insulting the Iraqi flag” by Erbil fans, but fans of both teams have different accounts about what actually happened.
Hussain al-Maksousi, a fan, said, “A fan of the Police Club carried the Iraqi flag and went to the pitch to console his team after the loss. He was surprised by the Erbil fans who attacked him, pulled the flag from him, and beat him, which provoked his fellow fans.”
The confrontations continued, according to Al-Maksousi, who spoke to Al-Hurra website, for about an hour before the security finally succeeded in dispersing them and transporting the injured to the hospital.
But Erbil fan, Nawzad Arkouzi, says that the police fans took down the stadium seats after their team lost, and chanted insulting Kurdish slogans, which led to the outbreak of clashes.
Arkouzi, who also spoke to Al-Hurra, denied launching racist chants.
The last hours witnessed attempts to calm down, led and promoted by government officials such as Bankin Rekani, the former Iraqi Minister of Public Works, who published and praised the initiative to raise the two flags on the buildings of Erbil.
And the Kurdish Rudaw channel said that Arab and Kurdish fans raised the flags of Iraq and the Kurdistan region in the stadium, apparently in an attempt to clear the atmosphere.
The two sides published videos supporting each team’s story, but it was not possible, until now, to know the sequence of the videos, and to identify the party who started the quarrel, especially since the two teams, in turn, issued contradictory statements.
The police team called on the “Football Association and officials” to “stop the farce that has happened and is still happening” in Erbil, according to a statement published by the club.
The police team accused “a group of Erbil club fans of assaulting the club’s management and fans, and tearing up the beloved Iraq flag in front of all the governorate’s officials, in a phenomenon that seemed to be repeated on every sporting occasion without finding anyone to stop.”
The team held the officials of the Kurdistan Region responsible for the safety and security of its fans and team.
But the Erbil team denied what it said were “lies” and said that the Iraqi flag was raised everywhere in the province.
A club statement said, “Some pages want to change the course of the topic when they talk about something called the joy of the Erbil fans after they beat the police team.” “.
This is not the first time that sports tension between Erbil and the capital’s teams has led to an altercation.
Activist and sports observer, Shivan Meriwani, says that “the sensitivity towards science does exist, but what happened is of sporting origin and is not racist or nationalistic.”
Mariwani added to Al-Hurra website that “problems between fans happen everywhere in Iraq, but if the two teams are different in terms of nationality or sect for the city they represent, the sporting problems quickly take a sectarian or national cover.”
The fans of the two teams usually, according to Mariwani, deliberately launch racist and sectarian chants to provoke the other party, which turns the sports conflict into a racist and sectarian conflict.
The Iraqi journalist, Karim Al-Sayed, says that what happened in the Francois Hariri stadium could happen in any of the other stadiums, whether in Iraq or the world.
He added to the “Al-Hurra” website that “the difference is that what is happening is not that level of violence, but the recurrence of these incidents and in this particular stadium and the nature of the charge that accompanies the matches, especially the decisive ones, because the match was exclusionary and in which the winners and losers gave the event all these dimensions.”
Al-Sayed criticized the “absence of the concerned authority”, that is, the Football Association, as “the issue remained for long hours without an official position or statement.”
The Iraqi Football Association said in a statement that it was investigating the matter, and that the negligent would be held accountable.
Al-Sayed says, “The issue, in my opinion, remains within its football and sports framework, related to the level of stadium security control and the strictness of the Disciplinary Committee with its decisions against the club’s fans. “.
Kurdish journalist Hilkard Suleiman agrees with this view, stressing to Al-Hurra that “sports clubs, not sectarian or political ones, are what drives these quarrels.”
Suleiman added, “Teams of big cities always compete violently, part of this competition is due to the competition between the same cities, but what happened is unfortunate and should not be repeated.”