ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Fans held up pictures of Saddam Hussein in the West Bank on Saturday as Iraq managed to defeat the Palestinian national team 3-0 in a friendly international match.
Saturday marked the Iraqi team’s first trip to the Palestinian territories, crossing from Jordan, where they played at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in Ram on the outskirts of Ramallah.
The match drew out thousands of Palestinian fans who packed themselves into a stadium that rarely hosts live international matches. The friendly atmosphere saw the public raise Iraqi and Palestinian flags, as well as pictures of Iraq’s former regime leader, Saddam Hussein.
“This meeting certainly proves the brotherhood and bond between the two Arab nations - Iraqi and Palestinian - and I feel our presence is more important than the result,” Iraqi national team coach Basim Qasim told a pre-match news conference.
“We are carrying out our obligation to be here with our brothers here in Palestine,” he said.
In the summer of 2009, the Palestinian team traveled to Baghdad to compete in a friendly match in the Iraqi national team's first international home game since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
For many Palestinians, Saddam Hussein was a supporter of their cause. In 2017, the West Bank’s Qalqilya district named a street and erected a memorial to the Iraqi dictator, who is otherwise known for ethnic cleansing and war campaigns in the region.
Historically, Saddam’s Ba’athist regime had close ties with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and in February 1990, Saddam publicly threatened Israel.
Ties between Baghdad and Jerusalem remain strained, notably as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only head of state to support the historic referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, which the Iraqi government strongly opposed. Late last year, the Iraqi Parliament’s Council of Representative criminalized raising the Israeli flag and “promoting Zionist principles” in the country as people in the Kurdistan Region were seen waving Israel’s flag as a thank you for the Jewish state’s support.
In the coming months, Iraq has a match against Uzbekistan in September and South Korea in October.