In Iraq, Little People Football Team Dreams Big
Muhammad Rameez Published December 04, 2021 | 01:21 PM
Twice a week, a small football pitch in Iraq offers the 25-member national squad of little people a chance to fulfil dreams and tackle prejudice
Baghdad, Dec 4 (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 4th Dec, 2021 ) :Twice a week, a small football pitch in Iraq offers the 25-member national squad of little people a chance to fulfil dreams and tackle prejudice.
Despite modest means, the players come from across the country to train, leaving behind their daily troubles, discrimination and jibes.
"The team has changed the course of my life and that of the other players," said Abdel Rahman, who works in a Baghdad cafe where he prepares shishas.
"I'm good at football, but we're treated with contempt and it's impossible to play in mainstream teams," said Abdel Rahman, who stands at 1.42 metres (four foot, eight inches).
"But now everything is changing," said the forward, clad in a number nine jersey, with green socks hiked up to his knees.
This will depend mainly on restrictions imposed for the coronavirus pandemic, he told AFP.
"We're also looking for financial resources to help the participating countries." The matches will be played by seven-member teams in indoor stadiums and on futsal fields.
A key difference will be the size of the goals, fixed at 1.
7 metres (about 5.6 feet) in height and two metres in width, compared to the regular 2.44 by 7.32 metres.
It was the Copa America that inspired Hussein Jalil to start up the Iraqi team in 2019.
Salah Ahmed, a 37-year-old forward, takes time off from work as a bike-repairman to attend.
"Before joining the team, I suffered from society's attitude towards little people," said the father of one.
Dwarfism is a medical or genetic condition that results in a stature below four foot, 10 inches, according to Little People of America, a support organisation.
Those with the condition, who refer to themselves as little people, face several challenges when it comes to playing football.
"Some players suffer harassment in public places and on the streets," said Jalil. "But the situation is changing, football has given them more confidence." He pointed to other problems, such as finding football kits in the right sizes in the shops, so they have had to improvise.
There are also financial difficulties. When they travel, they have to borrow money to pay for their tickets.
"Upon our return, the youth and sports ministry reimburses up to $7,000 to cover our expenses," Jalil added.
Abdel Rahman, a father of three, said the sport needs more backing.
"In Iraq, the stars of the sport don't even know that our team exists."