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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Fan wins Iraqi Hearts and minds
Neil Young
Neil Young has been based in Iraq for 10 months
A football fan based in Iraq has delighted fellow Hearts supporters by convincing dozens of locals to back the Edinburgh team.

Neil Young, 26, a shipping contractor who was born in Edinburgh, said he had converted Iraqi workers into loyal Hearts fans who now never miss a game.

The group of men watch Hearts matches from Mr Young's room in a British Army compound in Umm Qasr in Southern Iraq.

Mr Young hopes to bring one of the men to the capital to watch a live match.

During the Hearts semi-final they were so annoyed when they missed the first two goals against Hibs because a sand storm affected the TV connection
Neil Young

Speaking to the BBC Scotland news website, Mr Young said the group of men between 25 and 55 years old had become fanatics of the team.

"The Iraqis are football mad so one day I talked a group of workers into watching a Hearts match.

"Now they never miss a Hearts game. During the Hearts semi-final they were so annoyed when they missed the first two goals against Hibs because a sand storm affected the TV connection.

"If the games are at night I buy them internet tickets so they can watch the games from their homes because there is a night curfew here and therefore they can't come to my room.

"And for the Hearts final they made me take an Iraqi flag back to Edinburgh for the game and looked out for me waving it on the TV."

Heart of Midlothian Football Club
Heart of Midlothian Football Club has welcomed the new fans

Mr Young, who is a finance executive of Inchcape Shipping Services, lives in army barracks in Iraq because his employers have a contract with the MoD.

He added: "I am now saving up my airmiles so I can bring back one of the workers, Karim Mazan, as he is the only one who has a passport.

"It would be unbelievable for him to walk out on the pitch at Tynecastle during half-time."

Pete Lindsell, editor of Jambos Kickback website where Mr Young has posted comments about his new Hearts recruits, said: "It goes to show how popular the club are becoming all over the world, and we are delighted that the fans, through Jambos Kickback, can promote the community spirit which Hearts are so well known for.

"We will make sure that any donated Hearts shirts are sent to Iraq for members of the club's newest group of fans."

A Hearts Football Club spokeswoman said they have 400,000 fans across the world.

She said: "We are delighted with this news. Our fan base is growing and growing.

"We have fans all over the world and a number of fans in the armed forces whom we receive letters from."

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