In 2011, Osama Rashid was selected to represent the Iraqi national team in a friendly match against Kuwait. The midfielder, a surprise call-up and one of the first so called ‘expat’ players to feature for Iraq, looked on as Iraq’s iconic captain Younis Mahmoud felt a pain in his hamstring. After receiving treatment, the physio indicates Younis will have to be replaced. The German coach, Wolfgang Sidka, has a word in the young midfielder’s ear instructing him to begin his warm up – arguably the biggest moment of his career at such a tender age. Osama awaits his number to be displayed on the substitutes’ board. His number doesn’t came up.
There has been a late change of mind from the coaching staff and the 20 year-old graduate from the football school at famed Dutch club Feyenoord is forced to sit down. He does, however, get his chance in the second half. Despite his youthful age and lack of experience, the ball-playing midfielder looks comfortable sitting deep in midfield, keeping the game ‘ticking over’ with a noticeable calmness to his game. Rashid walks off the pitch at full time thinking he’ll get his chance in a competitive match soon – a feeling made even more likely following Nashat Akram‘s dismissal from the training camp following a perceived ‘lack of discipline’.
Things do not go as planned for Osama, who is forced to wait another year to pull on the Iraqi jersey after ‘discrepancies’ over details on his Dutch and Iraqi passports. FIFA were forced to intervene in the form an investigative committee, which eventually declared that Osama Rashid was in fact the same Osamah Jabbar Shafeeq Rashid as noted on his Iraqi passport. The green light was given and was soon followed by another call-up from the Iraqi FA. Such is the organisation of the Iraqi FA, Osama had flown to Turkey to train with the national side. However, to the shock of then Brazilian technical manager Zico, who was known for not allowing any interference in his team selections, the young midfielder was turned away. It was later revealed that Zico had not been informed of the arrangements with the FA. Osama was left sat alone on the training field edge wondering whether he would ever get a chance to represent his country once again. What once looked a dream was now closely resembling a nightmare.
Osama Rashid’s story is one that is all too common with the Iraqi national team, unfortuantely. Yasir Kasim and Ahmed Yasin have both been publicly villainised by integral members of the team setup. However, their stories are an example of the vastly growing globalisation of the game. In Osama’s case, a Dutch national donning the green jersey of Iraq. The midfielder has actually represented three national sides: Netherlands at Under 17 level, Iraq at senior level and the Kurdistan side in an unofficial tournament held in Marseille.
There are now a host of footballers of Iraqi origin plying their trade in divisions all across the world. At the 2015 Asian Cup, Osama represented his homeland alongside Swedish-based Ahmed Yasin, American-born Justin Meram and Yaser Kasim, who grew up in England. All four played an integral part of Radhi Shanaishel’s team that reached the semi-finals in the Asian Cup 2015, Australia.
The 2-0 defeat in Sydney against South Korea, over 14 month ago, was Osama’s last game for Iraq. Osama is an obvious talent, a silent cog in a compact midfield, keeping the ball moving like clockwork. Prior to travelling with the Iraqi squad, the Farense SC midfielder has been in immense form for his club and is now their top scorer with eight goals in all competitions. With Yaser Kasim out injured, the gifted Osama Rashid could be the man to replace him alongside Saad Abdul-Amir at the heart of the midfield in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Thailand and Vietnam in Tehran.
This feature was written by Hassanin Mubarak, from the magnificent IraqSport Archive. You can contact Hassanin via email or find him onTwitter, where you can find the latest news and statistics on the Iraqi national team. We thank Hassanin for his contribution to IraqFootball.me and look forward to working closely with him in future projects.