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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Iraq scores football victory over US
A football match between a top Iraqi club and a team drawn from US soldiers in Iraq has resulted in a 12-0 thrashing for the Americans.

Tuesday's match
Only few Iraqi fans were allowed to watch the game
The game - at the Olympic stadium in Baghdad - marked the official handover of the arena to Iraqi athletes after being used as a US military base for more than two months.

The Americans described the game as a symbolic gesture aimed at showing that life in the capital was returning to normal.

However, security concerns after the recent wave of violence meant that very few Iraqis were allowed in to watch al-Zawra club demolish the US side.

The BBC's Richard Galpin - who watched the match - said that the result was not significant.

That regime was similar to the Nazis, to the Communists, which they use sport for politics
Ahmed al-Samarrai
Acting head of sport in Iraq

He said what was important was that finally the Olympic stadium could be used again for sports and Iraqi athletes could begin serious training for next year's Olympics in Athens.

Uday's reign of terror

Until recently, the Iraqi football team was run by Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, who is said to have tortured players who he judged played badly.

Uday Saddam
Uday kept an iron grip on Iraqi football for nearly 20 years

Many footballers - some of whom were forced to flee the country - spoke of beatings and public humiliation by Uday and his henchmen just because players lost a match.

They said Uday's favourite punishment was caning the feet and locking up the players for days. Some said Uday forced them to play after shaving their heads.

"That regime was similar to the Nazis, to the Communists, which they use sport for politics," Ahmed al-Samarrai, acting head of sport in Iraq, said.

For the Americans, Tuesday's game was an attempt to show that normality was gradually returning to Iraq.

But our correspondent says that the continuing violence and the lack of basic services in Baghdad - such as electricity - mean there is still a very long way to go.


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