|Kurdish clubs pursue Syrian footballers|
Kurdish clubs are hoping to hire coaches and footballers from Syria, which has witnessed political unrest and violence
since early 2011. Over the last two seasons, the three top Kurdish clubs of Erbil, Zakho and Duhok have signed contracts with Syrian players and trainers, hoping to strengthen their teams.
Duhok was the first club to appoint a Syrian football coach, Ayman Ehsan Al-Hakeem, in October 2011. Al-Hakeem's deal with Duhok was for $130,000, for one season, in addition to a salary of $2,000 a month, in addition to meals and accommodations. Al-Hakeem replaced Iraqi coach Akram Salman, who failed to lead Duhok to the AFC Cup semifinals last year.
Duhok management board asked Al-Hakeem to use his influence to persuade Syrian footballers to join Kurdish clubs. Al-Hakeem brought Ali Diab from Al Shorta FC and Burhan Ahmad Sahyouni from Al-Jaish to Duhok in August 2011.
After poor results in several matches in the first half of Iraqi football league, Erbil FC announced the resignation of its head coach Ayoub Odisho. The Erbil Club board members held several sessions to discuss appointing a new coach. They concluded a Syrian coach might be the right trainer to lead Erbil.
In a press conference on Jan. 16, Erbil presented former coach of the Syrian national team, Nizar Mahrous, as its new coach. Mahrous' contract with Erbil is worth $150,000 a year with the possibility of an extension. Erbil also singed Muhammad Fawaz Mando as assistant coach and Khalid Raihani as goalkeeper coach.
In its most recent monthly press conference on 21 February held at Franso Hariri Stadium, Erbil FC presented two Syrian footballers. The players are former Al-Ta'awn midfielder, Nadeem Sabbagh, whose contract is worth $70,000 and former Al-Jaish striker, Abdulrazaq Hussein, who will receive $80,000.
The Kurdish Zakho Club also entered the transfer market enthusiastically by signing Syrian coach Muhammad Kwid. Because Al-Hakeem and Mahrous were already in Kurdistan Region, this helped to persuade Kwid to take Zakho's offer.
The club had already signed Syrian goalkeeper Kawa Hesso and midfielder Feras Ismail, from Al-Jaish in September 2011. The latest contract of Zakho with Nisouh Naknda, Syrian Olympic team forward, was announced in February.
The flow of Syrian footballers into the Iraqi league, according to Nawzad Qader, member of the Iraqi Football Association, will have a positive impact on the teams, performances and on the league.
"Our teams need to benefit from international experience. I have noticed great changes in the style and techniques of playing for the teams who have Syrian footballers on their squads," noted Qader.
In Qader's view, under the management of Syrian coaches, all footballers will have an equal opportunity to show their skills and become top players in the team. In the past, some players have gotten better opportunities to play at the expense of others who didn't have the right connections with the head trainer.
Despite the advantages of international footballers and coaches, Qader said Kurdish teams shouldn't forget training locals; they need to pay great attention to their junior teams and open more schools and academies for a brighter future.
Although the unrest in Syria is believed to be a major reason behind the flow of athletes to the Iraqi league, Mahmud Aziz, Erbil Club's Secretary said, "We signed a deal with Syrian coach Mahrous because we think he is a title-winning coach. He has experience and knows all about regional football. The team's results have changed for the better since he took over."
According to Aziz, Mahrous doesn't discriminate among players; what really matters to him is playing the best game and winning the match.
The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed--Erbil