History was made as Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya became the first Iraqi club to win one of Asia’s most coveted prizes. The Baghdad-based club successfully beat off Bengaluru FC in a fairly one-sided final to take home the AFC Cup trophy at the Suheim Bin Hamad Stadium (Qatar SC Stadium). Both sides were making their debuts in the prestigious final but it was the Iraqis who celebrated well into the night. Indeed, rivalries were put aside for one night whilst all of Iraq was fully-behind Al-Quwa, who were representing Iraqi football and it’s people.
Al-Quwa went into the game with Hammadi Ahmed in fine form, having scored 15 goals in the tournament. Indeed, it was his strike late into the second half that secured the historical victory for the Air Force Club.
The goal came courtesy of good interplay between Ahmed Kahdim and Amjed Radhi, the former playing a neat ball to the latter. Amjed’s nimble footwork saw him beat a flurry of defenders before his pass across goal was flicked in by an in-form Hammadi.
The well-taken goal was enough to secure victory for the Iraqi side and handed Hammadi the tournament’s Golden Boot award – an impressive total of 16 goals to his name. If that wasn’t enough, the Iraqi international also bagged the award for ‘Most Valuable Player’ – a fitting end to an incredible journey. His performances this tournament will undoubtedly lift him to cult status for Al-Jawiya fans.
The journey begun with Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya potted in Group C, versus Shabab Al-Dhahiriya (Palestine), Al Wahda (Syria) and Al-Oruba (Oman). Five wins from six games saw them finish top of the group on 15 points, qualifying Al-Quwa to the knockout stages. Hammadi’s ten goals in the group stages proved instrumental to the team’s qualification to the latter stages of the competition.
Al-Quwa’s next opponents were Al Wehdat (Jodran), who proved tough challenge. A narrow 2-1 win sent the Iraqis through courtesy of two first half goals from Hammadi and Mohammed Hassan.
The quarter-finals proved a far less tense affair against Al-Jaish (Syria). Al-Quwa were spared blushes after an initial hiccup in a 1-1 home draw, played on neutral ground (Qatar). It was Hammadi’s 98th minute winner that kept the Iraqis in the game. However, all was quickly forgotten after a 4-0 away victory. Goals for Bashar Resan, Amjed Radhi, Hammadi Ahmed and Emad Mohsin did the damage and sent their side through to the semis where they faced Al-Ahed SC (Lebanon). Little separated the two sides following a 1-1 stalemate in the first leg, with Mohammed Elmedani grabbing Al-Quwa’s early goal. Al-Ahed fought well and clawed their way back into the game, an equaliser coming midway through the second half. The second leg was an equally tight affair with the semi final hanging in the balance, however, a 76′ minute winner from Bashar Rasan sent was enough to seal the final spot for the Baghdadi outfit.
The dramatic conclusion to a long journey was concluded with victory over Bengaluru FC. It was the Indian’s side first final appearance in Asia too, but they struggled to match the quality of the Iraqi side, who hosted a range of international players. The gulf in class proved too much for Bengaluru FC and it was Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya who would become Champions of Asia. Congratulations to them and to Iraqi football!