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PRESS RELEASE                                                                             January 3, 2004

- Richard Nielsen        
SC Region - Hilary F. White



Ad-Diwaniyah, Qadisiyah Province.  Blue skies over a long street beside the Al Diwaniyah River set the scene on Friday as 2,160 young men ranging in age from 8 to 25 marched to inaugurate the beginning of the new Youth and Sports Freedom Soccer League.  Boys carrying the flag of a free Iraq led the march as each of the 108 teams representing 36 different neighborhood communities were preceded by a name banner in Olympic style.  The line stretched as far as the eye could see.  The boys marched in step with a local group providing music, as they waved and smiled to the people sitting in the reviewing stands. 

Once all teams had passed the stands and taken their places, the Governor of Ad-Diwaniyah, Mr. Hazim Al Sah’alan, stepped forward to the microphone and welcomed everyone.  He made the following comments:

“This is the first sports season to be held since the fall of Saddam.  Democracy means a new life.  We have a new life.  Our enemy doesn’t like democracy.  We are happy; we are waiting for democracy in the future.  Democracy is a good gift from the Coalition to my people.  We shall protect democracy.  You are the avant-guard of democracy.” 

The boys also took an oath, promising to:  

"Play with honor for a new Iraq, for a democratic Iraq, for a free Iraq."

Following the speeches, two teams, Um Al-Khail and Ramadhn, played an exhibition game at the Om Al-Khail Soccer Field.  League play starts on January 3rd and finishes in March.  Winners will then enter a tournament to determine the final champion for the season. 
Cooperation between CPA, USAID-RTI, the Spanish Governance Support Team, and local Iraqis made the inauguration of the Youth and Sports Freedom Soccer League possible. 

Iraqis can take pride in the Youth and Sports Freedom Soccer League.  The boys participating in the League represent young men proud of their national identity and a country returning to normal as it moves toward democracy and a sovereign government.


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