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Iraq’s post-truth wikipedia league champions: How four titles became six

I find it both bizarre and laughable that I had to write this article to point out there was no winner of the Iraqi league in 2003 or 2014. I don’t believe in a few years’ time anyone will have to come out and answer the question on whether Barcelona or Real Madrid had actually won a certain La Liga title or if Al-Duhail or Al-Sadd had won a Qatar Stars League during a specific season.

However mainly because of a lack of knowledge over football in Asia, the Middle East and Iraq and the power of misinformation, I feel I had to correct the mistakes continually spread by certain people and websites.

Only a few days ago, Baghdad-based Al-Shurta deservedly claimed a fourth league title however in the celebrations several twitter accounts and websites claimed the Iraqi club had won a sixth title. So how can four become six? Well, the answer lays with Wikipedia and certain people editing the Al-Shurta or Al-Shorta wiki page. They claim the club have six titles adding the so-called league titles they won in 2003 and 2014.

This is where reality and fiction or a post-truth world combine. Having followed Iraqi football and the league for some time, I can confirm Al-Shurta never won either of the leagues in those years, the reason being the Iraq FA had cancelled or ended the Iraqi league without naming a winner. There isn’t even a debate on this in Iraq whether at the time or at present. Just because a football fan makes a claim Al-Shurta won the league does not make it true and all evidence pointing to Al-Shurta having won the leagues in 2003 or 2014 are baseless. If football fans determine the league champion of their leagues, their own teams would win every season.

In 2003, after the outbreak of war and the subsequent US-led invasion, the Iraqi league was cancelled and the FA at the time declared there had been no winner named.

Wikipedia also states Al-Shurta won the league title in 2013-2014 however the Iraq FA decided to end the league on June 18, 2014 due to the security situation in the country and no champion was named. What happened was the Iraq FA nominated leaders Al-Shurta as the first placed club as Iraq’s representative in the AFC Cup, with runners-up Arbil as the second team to represent Iraq. The reason for this, is every Association participating in Asian club competitions has to designate a first placed team and a second placed team, to determine their participation in AFC club competitions.

The Iraq FA decided on this meeting on June 18, that it designated Al-Shurta the first spot for the Asian tournament the AFC Cup while Arbil were designated the second spot. There was no champion for the 2013-14 season. The Iraqi FA spokesman Kamil Zaghir was quoted as saying “During the FA’s meeting today, (the IFA) refused to name Al-Shurta champions at domestic level and sufficiently only at level abroad (meaning Asian competitions)”

Kamil Zaghir noted the Iraq Football Association  had not named a winner of the 2014 league in an official statement distributed to the media after a session which lasted more than 4 hours in the presence of all members of the FA under president Abdul-Khaliq Masoud.

The head of the Iraqi FA said circumstances in the country were behind the decision to end the competition and the adoption of the current positions, however denied Al-Shurta had been named champions.

The FA released a press statement after the meeting highlighting the seven key decisions they had made, the main being ending the league after security concerns. The statement was read out by Kamil Zaghir “The FA decided to end the league and not cancel the league and the final positions remains as it is for the teams and according to the last round. There will would be no relegations and four teams would be promoted to number 20 teams the next season.”

The Iraq FA was clear in his statement that no team had been named champion and the positions were according to Al-Shurta and Arbil’s participation in the Asian Club competitions.

If this was not clear enough, I asked the FA’s General Relations officer Walid Tabra, a journalist for many years and a writer of several books on Iraqi sports history and he told me. “The IFA did not announce any team as league champions officially because they cancelled the competition.”

The ruling in 2014 as in 2003 was clear, whether some certain Iraqi football fans want to believe that this issue is still up for debate or discussion that is up to them. Officially and according to the football authority which administrates and organises the Iraqi League, the Iraqi Football Association, stated at the time both league seasons in 2003 and in 2014 were cancelled and that there was no winner.

Wikipedia is meant to be about sources and be impartial however when it comes to certain subjects where little is known or there is not a lot of interest, people with their own agendas and biases have the free-reign to edit and write as they wish to see fit and as concerning the wikipedia Al-Shorta page, when the person making the edits and changes to suit his own agenda is quoting his own website dedicated to the mentioned subject, there is no impartiality. You can see this running throughout the whole Al-Shorta Wikipedia page. As I know, the people behind the twitter account AlShorta_SC and alshorta.webs.com are the same people editing and writing on the Al-Shorta Wikipedia page, and these accounts and website are in no way linked to Nadi Al-Shurta Al-Riyadhi (Police Sports Club).

I’m not writing this to criticise or point fingers, I am only pointing out how these two league titles became wrongly attributed to Al-Shurta. I don’t support any Iraqi club and do not have any allegiances other than to be accurate and document history of the Iraqi game, and if fans of any club with their own agendas are creating these false debates and echo-chambers and leading other websites or twitter accounts to repeat or copy these biases and distortions, it just makes a mockery of Iraqi football and the domestic league itself. You do not see it happening with any other country. Only in Iraq, can Wikipedia create two league titles out of thin air and hand it to an Iraqi club and people around the world continue to believe and repeat these falsehoods.

I don’t expect this article to make any difference, because most people won’t read it and as the saying goes, “a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth has even put on its shoes.”

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