Iraqi aces serve homeland despite violence
Putting a team for next month's Davis Cup tie in Burma is an achievement as three of their group were murdered last August.sports Updated: Apr 17, 2007 18:25 IST
Multi-millionaires Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal may be upset over the reforms on the ATP circuit, but their problems are nothing compared to those encountered by tennis players in Iraq.
Even putting together a team for next month's Davis Cup Group IV Asia/Oceania tie in Burma is an achievement as three of their group were murdered last August.
"It (the shootings of Naser Ali Hatim, Wisam Adel and Hussein Ahmed Rashid) was not sectarian violence, one was Shia, the other two were Sunni," said Iraqi number one Akram Mustafa Abdulkarim.
"They were wearing tennis shorts and sports gear after training.
"They were killed because they were athletes. Many athletes are killed without reason. Ten minutes before (they were shot), I was talking with them on the phone. They were good friends. It's a catastrophe for Iraqi sport."
Theirs is not the only sport to have suffered its share of tragedy in a country that is believed to have seen 30,000 killings, according to the United Nations figures, in 2006 alone.
In May 2006, 15 members of the national taekwondo team were kidnapped and have never been seen again.
Numerous players and coaches from football teams - their national side created a sensation by reaching the Asian Games final - have been killed leading the Baghdad clubs to take the drastic step of playing their games in Kurdistan.
"It's hard to focus on tennis in these conditions," said the 25-year-old Akram.