Football-Crazed Iraqis Watch FIFA World Cup Despite Danger

This year's FIFA World Cup comes during an unprecedented decline in security within Iraq, with Sunni militants led by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overrunning parts of five provinces in a lightning offensive that Iraqi soldiers and police are struggling to contain.

updated: July 01, 2014 12:17 IST
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Iraq Soccer Fans
In this photo taken on June 19, 2014, Iraqi youths watch a soccer game in the World Cup at a cafe in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. While the Iraqi capital is not under any immediate threat of falling to the Sunni militants who have captured a wide swath of the country's north and west, battlefield setbacks and the conflict's growing sectarian slant is turning this city of 7 million into an anxiety-filled place waiting for disaster to happen.

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Baghdad: Raad Abdulhussein sits glued to a television in a Baghdad cafe, anxious over the dual concerns of his team trailing in a World Cup match, and the danger of bombings.

He puffs continually on a waterpipe as he sits quietly with three friends in the "Facebook" cafe, the silence only broken by shouts or clapping when the Netherlands advance toward Mexico's goal.

"Football brings us together," says Raad, a 30-year-old taxi driver, who visits the cafe every day with his friends to watch the matches, which due to the time difference are broadcast in the evening in Iraq.

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