Page last updated at 23:32 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

RAF lose in Basra football final


Russ Reid on the football tournament he helped organise in Basra

A six-a-side charity football tournament involving UK and local forces in Basra, Iraq, has been won by one of the home teams.

The Iraqi police service, wearing a Wigan Athletic strip, beat the RAF 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, playing as Sunderland, 2-0 in the final.

The event was sponsored by the English Premier League, which donated strips.

A total of 20 teams from the British and Iraqi forces and civilian contractors took part.

The competition was played on Sunday at Britain's Contingency Operating Base.

It worked on a World Cup format with four leagues of five teams and the winners and runners-up of each league going forward into the final eight for the knockout stages.

Brigadier Abdul Hussein Soud Sawadi Toama, commander of 52 Brigade Iraqi army, which fielded a team, said: "We had a beautiful day away from our military jobs and we are grateful to participate in this competition."

Charity auction

Major General Andy Salmon, commander of multi-national division (south east), said: "Everyone has got on with it together in a spirit of fun and mutual trust and co-operation which is exactly a reflection of what we have done for the last eight or nine months."

In order to allocate strips, the organisers held a charity auction during which the teams bid for their favourite jerseys.

The auction raised a total of 4,300, a figure matched by the Premier League.

A total of 8,600 will go to Project 65, created to honour the men who took part in the Coup de Main operation to capture the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne in Normandy in the first combat operation of D-Day 65 years ago.

These are now known as Pegasus and Horsa Bridges.

The charity aims to raise 500,000, a small proportion of which will be used to erect a memorial to the men of the Coup de Main force and those directly associated with the operation.

The rest will be split between various service charities.

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