Around one thousand runners participated in a two-kilometer race in the center of Baghdad on Monday (April 6), which has been officially designated as Iraq’s Sport Day by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The race started at 10am local time in Abu Nawas Street, continued alongside the Tigris River and ended in a soccer field on the same street.
The weather was kind to the so-called ‘victory marathon’, with sunny conditions throughout. The race was designed to show people’s support for the Iraqi troops fighting insurgents, according to the Minster of Youth and Sports.
“Particularly when we are under pressure, we need to establish festivals like this for social networking, for love and harmony and to promote national cohesion; an important message internally and abroad – particularly abroad. At the moment we are facing an unjust ban on our games, our football and our stadiums. And this is a message to the federations and the International Federation FIFA that the ban on Iraq should be lifted at the next possible opportunity,” said Abdul Hussein Abtan, Minster of Youth and Sports.
A ban imposed by FIFA prevented the playing of official international football matches in Iraq, due to security fears.
Abtan himself ran the marathon with a variety of other runners.
“We came to participate and contribute in this beautiful sports day, we are from the College of Physical Education for Girls and we were happy to take part and hope that it will be repeated” said, Dr. Shahbaa Ahmed from the University of Baghdad.
Many people from all walks of life participated in the marathon, among them students, government employees, and state officials.
“The Iraq Bikers team came with all its factions and religions to represent this sport and show its support to the Iraqi army and to say may Iraq live on, God willing,” said Billal al-Bayati from the Iraqi bikers’ team.