New Zakho Stadium Stirs Patriotism
people’s troubled minds off of the war.” Hiresh noted that the conflict and economic hardship has delayed the opening of the stadium since they broke ground three years ago.
The stadium, filled well past its 20,000 seat capacity, was overflowing with flag-waving nationalism, particularly during the opening ceremony when a Kurdish flag the size of the field was unveiled to a screaming crowd, followed by an elaborate fireworks show.
“If this can bring happiness to people who are troubled by the situation, that’s great,” Hiresh continued. “But what we want more than just a stadium, which may entertain us for a while, is a free country."
The sentiment that the opening of this stadium stands for something greater than just soccer was shared by many. This was particularly evident through the presence of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who helped with the ceremonial first kick. A sense of unity was also felt in the gathering of players from other Kurdish clubs to join Zakho in their friendly match against the Iraq national team.
“This stadium is the greatest stadium in Iraq and one of the best things the government has done for Zakho,” said Baxtyar Hussein, who works in a nearby neighborhood. “The opening means so much to Kurdistan because it shows our power that we can fight and build our country in a war situation. It shows that we keep standing and never fall."