Football and war | Stray bullet invades soccer ‘sanctuary’

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Manar Mudhafar. Link to LA Times article.


Journalism of stunning quality takes justified front-page position in the Sunday Los Angeles Times. Bruce Wallace narrates the shocking death of Manar Mudhafar, a player for capital side Al Zawra recently selected for the national team. At an afternoon practice on 30 March, Mudhafar, 19, rose to head the ball and came down bloodied and three minutes away from dying, a stray bullet in his throat. The death was accidental, the bullet perhaps originating at a nearby police station. “He looked like he had been stung by an insect,” said Al Zawra captain Haidar Mahmood. “I got to him and I saw it was a bullet and I ran away, because I couldn’t stand seeing my buddy dying on the ground.” Wallace uses Mudhafar’s death to explore issues of sectarianism and the fading of divisions among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis in the professional and national-team structures of Iraq. The 1,700-word article deserves a close read.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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