By John Davison
KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) – The match should have been cause for young Iraqis to celebrate. Their national team beat Lebanon 1-0 in the first competitive international hosted by Iraq for years in the holy city of Kerbala, complete with an opening ceremony of music and dance.
Instead, the event drew high-level criticism which many of the city’s youth say shows the gulf between them and the political and religious establishment.
At the opening ceremony last week for the West Asia Football Federation Championship, a tournament of Arab countries hosted by Iraq, a Lebanese woman violinist not wearing the Islamic headscarf and with uncovered arms played Iraq’s national anthem.
Many Iraqis were elated that such a ceremony, typical of international football tournaments, could finally take place on their soil after football governing body FIFA last year partially lifted a ban largely in place since 1990 on Iraq hosting competitive matches over security concerns.