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Congressman Suggests Soccer Series Between U.S. and Iraq

May 08, 2003|Grahame L. Jones

The United States should play a two-game series against Iraq, possibly in Baghdad and Washington, a U.S. congressman has suggested in a letter to Bob Contiguglia, president of U.S. Soccer.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) said in the letter sent Wednesday that he believed such a series would "help promote goodwill and understanding" between the countries.

"It would be fantastic if the very first international soccer match played in the new Iraq were against the U.S," Hayworth wrote. "It would be even better if sponsors could be found so that proceeds from the U.S. leg -- Washington, D.C. would be the perfect venue -- could be used for relief work in Iraq."

Hayworth, a former sports broadcaster, said the Iraq national team is symbolic of the suffering endured by the Iraqi people under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"We have all been horrified by the stories of Iraqi national team players being threatened before matches and tortured after them if their performance was not up to the standards of Saddam Hussein's sadistic son Uday, who was Iraq's sports czar," Hayworth wrote.

There was no immediate response to the suggestion from U.S. Soccer, but any matches with Iraq would likely have to wait until after the FIFA Confederations Cup in France in June and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S. and Mexico in July.

Meanwhile, Major League Soccer and the Anschutz Entertainment Group announced a program aimed at providing the children of Iraq with more than 10,000 new and used soccer balls as well as soccer boots and uniforms.

Fans will be able to donate such items at MLS games over the coming weeks.

"With the worldwide appeal of our sport, we are in a unique position to support the rebuilding of Iraq by providing a much-needed diversion to the children of that nation," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in Houston, where the U.S. plays Mexico tonight.

-- Grahame L. Jones

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