Iraq: The beautiful game returns to previously ISIS-controlled bullet-riddled stadium

Football has returned to the Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium after spending many years as a weapons depot after it was seized by ISIS in 2014. The once 20,000 seater stadium, despite its structural damage and rock hard pitch, is in use again as it was on Monday by Mosul Football Club. Stacks of debris can be seen alongside a dusty pitch with damage and bullet holes visible throughout the stadium. «The devastation you see now has occurred when ISIS entered and occupied the city of Mosul. No one was able to reach this stadium as ISIS was occupying the area, which they have turned into their headquarters,» explained Financial Director of Mosul Football Club Muneir Ismail. «All of the stadiums were under the control of ISIS, not only this stadium, and they were all in ruins,» stated Mosul Football Club player Younis Ahmed. In 2017, Iraqi and coalition forces pushed the insurgents out of the city in a devastating fight that left Mosul, and its stadiums, in ruins. Two other stadiums in Mosul were also damaged, but seeing football on the pitch and fans in the stadiums again brings hope of recovery to the Iraqi football community. «Despite the destruction and the bad condition of the stadium, which has a dirt ground, I would like to send a message to every honourable official whether in the province, anywhere in Iraq or even in the international and humanitarian organisations, that young people still want to live their lives and that they still love sports. So, I call on them all to take care of this stadium and to restore it,» exclaimed Ismail.

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