DUBLIN, Ireland (Kurdistan24) – An Irish athlete is set to become the first ever Kurdish hurler to compete in a national Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) competition when his team plays a championship final on Saturday.
Corner-forward Zak Moradi, a 26-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat), will make history when he represents his team Leitrim against Warwickshire in the 2017 Lory Meagher Cup final in Ireland.
Moradi downplayed the big occasion and insisted it was an important day for his team as well, who are also making their first appearance at a GAA final.
“It’s a historic day for everybody in the team, not just me,” he said.
Moradi’s parents fled to Ramadi city in Iraq from Rojhilat to escape persecution during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Unfortunately for his family, they found themselves in danger in an Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
In 2002, 11-year-old Moradi and his family moved to Ireland to escape Hussein’s tyranny.
It was here where the Kurdish athlete was introduced to the sport of hurling.
“It took me a year or two to get used to it,” Moradi told the Irish Times.
“I started later than everybody else. I was starting when I was 11,” he said. “They were starting when they were six.”
Hurling, an ancient Gaelic sport that has been played for nearly 3,000 years, is popular in Ireland and Scotland.
Teams field 15 players who compete to get the ball (called a sliotar) in the opposition’s net using a stick called a hurley.
A team receives three points if the ball is sent between the opposition’s goal posts, and one point if it is over the crossbar.
The game lasts 70 minutes (35 minutes per half), and is similar to Gaelic football—another popular sport in Ireland.