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Q: During the World Cup, we heard a lot about how Iraq’s new national soccer team almost made the tournament and how professional soccer is enjoying some sort of re-birth in Iraq. Well, how’s that going? What’s up with that?

A: Indeed, in the years after the invasion, many Iraqis have turned to soccer in an attempt to distract themselves from the difficulties and dangers of daily life. It’s pretty common to see hordes of kids in sandlots kicking around a ball, and Iraq’s professional league was on its way back.

But, according to Voices of Iraq, the independent radio network funded by the International Agency for Free Media, the league is hitting tough times again.

Known as the Iraqi Central Football Federation, the league was to kick off again last November with 24 professional clubs spread throughout Iraq. But, because of security concerns and transportation problems, most of the matches were delayed and eventually canceled. The league has once again ground to a halt, officials have said.

“My team is frustrated and does not care at all about the training it is receiving because of the inability of the Iraqi Federation to set a fixed date for the resumption of the league competitions,” one of the coaches told the radio network.

So, while passion for the game remains high, the league has not yet set a timetable for returning to play. Because of that, the radio station reported, many of the top Iraqi players — who wanted to make a political statement by playing in Iraq — have reluctantly moved to sign with other teams in the region.

Got a question about goings-on in the Mideast? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.osd.mil

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