In Iraq as in other countries, sports seem to bring the country together, regardless of people’s sectarian or ethnic allegiances. In particular football has always brought Iraqis together, especially in support of their national team. The Iraqi youth team recently achieved spectacular results in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, where they got to fourth place, despite the many problems that plague the game ad players in their country.
But Iraqis’ love of “the beautiful game” is not limited to the national team. They also enthusiastically follow international club matches and they’ll pledge fervent allegiance to clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United or Bayern Munich. The Iraqi fans show their enthusiasm in different ways – and now some home owners in Baghdad have taken the idea to another extreme: They have started to decorate the exteriors and interiors of their homes in their team colours, as a kind of a jibe to fans of the opposition.
Spanish football clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the most popular teams among Iraqis. And now there are several houses in Baghdad that make that clear.
“My passion for Barcelona is huge,” says Mohammed Jaseb, one of the Baghdad home owners. “I watch them play all the time. And I like to express my passion for the team any way I can. I wanted to tell everybody that I care a lot.”
Because of that, Jaseb has decorated the exterior of his home with Barcelona colours and logos. He says that he did it to show his love for his team and “because my family and my children are also very happy with this design”.
Jaseb also has deeper reasons though. Just as football makes the average Iraqi fan forget about the recent violence around them – in September, almost 1,000 people were killed in Iraq – Jaseb hopes that seeing his house might have a similar effect on passers-by.
“I want them to forget about the daily suffering of Iraqi people thanks to illegal, terrorist and extremist acts,” Jaseb explained.
Meanwhile in another part of town, Osama Farhan is also a huge Barcelona fan. He tries to reflect this in the way he dresses and how his house is decorated.
“If I had enough money, I would have painted the Barcelona colours on my house – just to tease the fans of Real Madrid,” Farhan explained. “The people in the neighbourhood I live in are split between Barcelona and Real Madrid.”
Apart from the cash required, Farhan says his father – who owns the house – doesn’t like the idea ether.
While the football fans themselves like to think they’re starting a new architectural fashion in Baghdad, Amal Hanin, a civil society activist, believes it has more to do with how locals are feeling about the unrest around them.
“Iraqis have a lot of passion for life,” Hanin told NIQASH. “So they’re trying to escape their sad and painful reality by paying a lot of attention to small things like this, instead of getting involved in politics.”
“Iraqis are tired and they’re bored with conflict,” she concluded. “They’re trying to fight their feelings of frustration by inventing new ways to express their love for life and to say that they will not surrender to the pain they are facing every day."