The 17th of May 2006
The 17th of May 2006, was a very special day that I won't ever forget, even though it was on a “typical” Iraqi civil war day in Baghdad. On that day I woke up in my house and the only thing that I worried about was counting the hours. My brain couldn't function at all, my focus was only on one thing and one dream that could come true - watching my favorite team FC Barcelona playing and hopefully winning the Champions League for the first time in my life. The story of engagement and falling in love with FC Barcelona was so special for me. This relationship was romantic and powerful and got only stronger in time. You should imagine that literally there was nothing good in the life that surrounded me in Baghdad except this passion.
During that time in Baghdad, it was strongly recommended to stay at your house after 6pm. All the shops were closed by that time, the high temperature reaching 45 degrees, few hours of electricity, and above all, the anxiety from the unknown future in Baghdad, nobody knew what would happen today or tomorrow, would he stay alive? would he be kidnaped? or he would continue his journey in the “unknown” for several more days or months. For me, during that time there were only one thing that embraced the absolute joy and happiness - watching my favorite team "who didn't win a single title during the last five seasons by that moment"; claiming the league table day after day; passing through the difficulties of the curved way to the final of the most valuable competition in Europe - the Champions League. The 17th of May 2006 was the day of the Champions League final between my team FC Barcelona and Arsenal. While the hours were passing by, the level of emotions was getting higher and higher; looking at the watch every five minutes and counting the remaining time for the kickoff. In Iraq, in order to make sure you could watch a match, first, you had to guarantee that you would have electricity at home during match time, in order to watch it. It was a struggle that most people from all over the world couldn’t imagine, nor could understand the feeling of having your only joyful moment at risk, because of electricity. Fortunately, on that day in our house, we had a big generator that could produce electricity for the entire house for several hours. What was really unfortunate, that we had only few fuel left, and it was really hard and expensive to find gas to fill the generator (there was a shortage of gas because of the bomb attacks Al Qaeda used to target at gas vehicles coming to Baghdad). The only option was to use the very old small generator that was kept for an emergency, but it also didn’t have gasoline. My father and I decided to prepare for the match in our way. We took the gasoline from our car trying to fill the small generator to the maximum capacity. It gave us a relief from the stress of not knowing whether we could watch the match and if it would go to extra time and penalties. As the generator was too small with low generating power, we could only use it for the TV and the Satellite receiver. No lights, no fan, and of course no air conditioning, in a 40 degrees summer nights in Baghdad. The match began. From the first moment I felt that I couldn't even hold my breath from excitement and nervousness. Different thoughts were coming to my mind during the match; looking at the crowd and thinking: “why I'm not in the stadium enjoying this historical day? would it be possible one day in my life to watch FC Barcelona match from the stadium and see them with my eyes fighting to win a trophy?”
The other thought was all about football and the idea of football is to play good and win. I suffered from every single chance lost by my team. I wanted them to win more than anything in this life.
It was like holding a robe with all my power trying to get a new step of hope, hope to feel the joy and a happy moment while I was in need for that.
The match was changing dramatically. First Arsenal took the lead, while Barcelona players fought so hard during the entire match to make the comeback.
Until they scored the equalizer by the Cameroonian legend Samuel eto'o, before they came back again and scored the leading goal by Juliano Belletti 12 minutes before the end of the match.
The sound of my scream was higher than the sound of the old generator that gave us the "blessing" to watching the match. My leaps made the floor, that held me with all my nervousness during the 90 minutes of that historical match, vibrate.
The match ended and "We were the champions my friends". Carles Puyol the captain of the team held the champions league cup trophy high in the sky of Paris, but inside my eyes, it was much more than just a trophy, it was an indescribable happiness.
Now ten years later I look back and I see that I have been through a lot of challenges and changes.
First I went and grew (as a person) in another country. Spain was my choice. I built my life in the city of my dreams - Barcelona.
I became an active member of the club that gave me joy and a slight feeling of hope and happiness during the difficult time.
And finally, I made my dream come true in 2015 in the Olympique stadium of Berlin, when Barcelona reached the final to win their trophy for the fifth time in their history in the Champions League. It looks like my team and I, made a lot of achievements during the past years.
Whenever my Catalan friends and I talk about memories and historical matches, everyone tells his story, where and how he spent those memorable and historical moments. Although my stories, in general, are very different from theirs, but it's great to feel that regardless these differences we always are together to share the drink before going to the "Camp Nou" stadium in Barcelona to support the team that united us all.