Bad news from Iraq

Despite last year’s surge, things have gone terribly badly in Iraq. A change in tactics is required.

The Iraq Football Association have sacked coach Adnan Hamad following the team’s failure to progress to the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Iraq became continental champions 12 months ago by winning the Asian Cup but a 1-0 defeat to Qatar last Sunday ended their hopes of qualification for South Africa.

The IFA subsequently decided to relieve Hamad, who succeeded Egil Olsen in February, of his duties and turn their attentions to rebuilding.

The Iraqi government are reported to have interfered with the Iraqi FA. Still, things have improved in other ways in Iraq. Before the 2003 liberation of Iraq, Uday Hussain had control of the football team with bad consequences for top players who were deemed to have failed him:

Star performers, such as Jaffar, familiar to an entire generation of children from his picture on packets of chewing game, were singled out for particular punishment. “I was punished more than anyone else,” he said. His multiple incarcerations included the standard beatings with lengths of electric cable while performing press-ups, being made repeatedly to climb a 20-metre ladder and jump into a vat of raw sewage, and to trap mosquitos on pain of more beatings.