Chatting with the Iraqi Cristiano Ronaldo


Ahmed Yasin is Iraq’s hottest footballer, a man whose nickname was always going to be Cristiano.

Unfortunately that has as much to do with his fondness for hair gel as his skills. He plays for Örebro in Sweden’s second division, several thousand kilometres from the real Ronaldo in every sense.

Ahmed’s currently in Qatar getting ready for a World Cup qualifier (Iraq play their ‘home’ matches there for security reasons) and is spending most of his time bored witless in a hotel, which probably explains why he quickly took my call when I tried to ask him about Iraq’s new national anthem.

I’m saving most of that chat for a forthcoming article, but I wanted to put up a quote I found interesting because it illustrates the pointlessness of playing anthems before football matches – for many players at least.

“If you want to sing, you can,” Ahmed said. “If you don’t, you can be silent. A lot of people can concentrate and be ready for a match without singing. It’s like Ibrahimović in the Swedish team. He didn’t sing the anthem at the start [of his Swedish career], and so many people asked ‘Why? Why? Why?’ but why does he have to? It didn’t make him play any differently.”

All of which is true. Unfortunately newspapers will still criticise whenever players fail to sing. Another victory for journalism!

(Apologies to anyone reading who was expecting Ahmed’s style tips. I’ll try to do those in a future post)