Iraq has been ravaged by internal conflict since the US-led campaign to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003. In the north, the Kurdish community has broken away to form a semi-autonomous region called Kurdistan where frequent conflicts over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk have threatened to derail the progress toward political stability. According to the UN, last year 194 children were killed and 232 injured as a result of on-going violence in the country.
Spirit of Soccer began operating in Iraq in the spring of 2009 and to date has delivered programs in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk. To the credit of many brave young soccer players, their parents and the community we have delivered MRE coaching sessions to over 22,000 children, sometimes under heavy shelling. In keeping with our philosophy of local ownership we have trained 18 local Iraqi coaches to deliver our program, including three women, from a variety of different ethnic and religious groups including Arab, Kurd, Sunni, Shia and Christian.
In 2010 Spirit of Soccer organized the region's first Mine Risk Education Festival in Amman, Jordan in partnership with world's soccer's governing body FIFA which brought together young players and coaches from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank.
Spirit of Soccer is committed to providing MRE coaching to children from all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. "ERW and soccer are two great unifying forces" says Founder and Director Scott Lee. "These weapons don't care who you are or what religion you are - and neither does the sport. Based on these simple principles we have been able to navigate the very difficult political and cultural environments so we can get operational and deliver our messages. Soccer is the common language, and in Iraq we've organized programs that bring together Sunni, Shia and Christian coaches and kids".
In Iraq Spirit of Soccer works closely with a local NGO called Bustan Iraq to deliver our programs.