Ali Adnan’s name will forever be remembered in the Iraqi football history books. Starting out with Baghdad SC in the Iraqi League, he lived his dream as the full-back dominated the U-20 World Cup in 2013, earning a move to the Turkish Süper Lig and later to Serie A where he became the first Iraqi to both play and score in Italy’s top-flight. Now plying his trade with Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, Soccer Iraq’s Hassan Osama briefly caught up with the star before his team’s game with Montreal Impact to discuss his time at the club and Iraq’s upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
Srečko Katanec is staying with the Iraq national team and the World Cup Qualifiers are coming. In your opinion, is the national team in need of something more to reach the World Cup?
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. I thank you for your presence and your site; I wish you continuing success. Honestly, we need a lot. I always say, we need a lot to reach the World Cup; there are teams that have been working for years. We are far from this, our planning is all wrong. I think there is something big missing from those in charge of Iraqi football, they must fix this if we want to reach the World Cup. Until this moment, the team is not known, the call ups haven’t been made, we have less than a week until the game with no travel bookings. Me and Justin [Meram] still don’t have our flight tickets, I was talking to Justin yesterday. So I don’t know what the state of the national team is, we don’t know who the assistant coach is. The head coach, we learned two days ago that he’s staying. This is all disorganisation that doesn’t help the Iraqi national team, though we go back and say the thing that motivates us to play for the Iraqi team is the Iraqi people and fans who always hope for success for the national team and the players.
Iraq’s defender Ali Adnan salutes the spectators at the conclusion of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group D football match between Iran and Iraq at the Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on January 16, 2019. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
FIFA has now allowed Iraq to host their games in the country. Previously we played in UAE, Iran and Qatar. So how much does it help to play in front of the Iraqi fans?
Of course, we have been missing this and I confirm to you and I’m ready to confirm on behalf of my colleagues in the team that we are ready to reach the World Cup, especially when you play on your ground among your own fans. The Basra Stadium will be filled for each of the games, I am certain of the presence of the Iraqi fans and I have full confidence that they will support the Iraqi team. However, this doesn’t erase the most important thing, which is the administrative deficiency that is happening; honestly there is a big deficiency. It is up to everyone to work together in this moment so the national team can reach full readiness. It is not only about if Basra can host, but how to host well for the teams that will visit because it needs to give a good image of Iraq for future events, and us as a national team will try to give everything we have to give a good image, especially in the first round of World Cup Qualifiers.
Iraqi fans watch the international friendly football match between Iraq and Syria at the Basra Sports City Stadium on March 27, 2018. / Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Just one last thing as we know time is tight. Away from the national team, today will be your 24th game with Vancouver Whitecaps, so what is the biggest factor that made you stay with the Whitecaps after your loan ended?
This is a nice question, honestly. I’ve played professionally for a long time. People know, I’ve played in Turkey and Italy for a long time. I’ve seen a lot, and have gone through many coaches, administrations and fans. There is a big difference here in Vancouver; the reason that caused me to remain here is the love that people have for me here. I am of the type that if I like someone or become attached to someone, it’s hard to leave them. I’ve become attached to everyone at the club, the people, the fans who supported me from the first day until this moment, despite the situation I was in, which was a very difficult situation. However, the coach worked in a very specific way with regards to me and the evidence is that my level changed a lot with the Whitecaps, and for that reason I am very happy to be here, and I consider it to be one of the best teams that I’ve played for in my career.
Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan kicks the ball during their match against FC Dallas at BC Place on May 25, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Thank you for your time, we know the time was very tight today!
I’m sorry that the time is tight, but InshaAllah the future opportunities will be better. I wish you success, thank you very much.