From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, being a player for Iraq's national soccer team was seen as both prestigious and dangerous. Despite the team's popularity, players lived in fear of being beaten, tortured, or even executed for missing practice, under-performing, or losing a game. These punishments were directed by Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Iraq's then-leader, Saddam Hussein. After Hussein was overthrown, the grim truth behind Iraq's national soccer team finally came to light. For instance, Iraq had the only Olympic headquarters in the world with its own prison.
Uday Hussein's crimes exploited vulnerable athletes and created a shocking disparity between the adoration they received on the field and the brutality they endured behind the scenes. The list below tells the stories of these men and how they survived.
Uday Hussein Saw Athletic Failure As A Disgrace To Himself And Iraq
Getting A Red Card In A Match Resulted In Humiliation And Torture
During Halftime, Hussein Would Phone The Locker Room And Threaten Players
Hussein Displayed Torture Devices In The Iraqi Soccer Training Facility
Missing Practice For Any Reason Landed Players In Prison
Jailed Players Were Forced To Kick Around A Concrete Ball