1971 Asian Club Championship
When Aliyat Al Shorta won the 1969-70 Iraqi Central League title, their third league title in a row, little did they know that it would enable them to conquer the entire continent.
The Iraq Football Association officially became an AFC member in 1970 and thus its clubs were eligible to participate in the Asian Club Championship, now known as the AFC Champions League - Asia's biggest club competition. As league champions, it was Aliyat Al Shorta, playing under the name of Al Shorta, who became the first ever Iraqi team to participate in a major continental tournament.
The manager of the side was Mohammed Najib Kaban and some of his star players were Satar Khalaf, Lateef Shandal, Douglas Aziz, Tariq Aziz, Abid Kadhim, Shaker Ismail, Mudhafar Nouri, Riyadh Nouri, Ghanim Abdul-Hamid, Issam Khalil, Menam Hussein and Tariq Hussein.
They immediately showed that they meant business in Bangkok by defeating the defending Asian champions, Taj Tehran of Iran, 3-2 in the preliminary round thanks to a Ghanim Abdul-Hamid goal in the first minute of the game and two goals from Shaker Ismail (34 and 64 minutes respectively). This enabled them to have an easier draw for the group stage, where they would face Bangkok Bank F.C. of Thailand and F.C. Punjab Police of India in Group B.
Al Shorta defeated Bangkok Bank F.C. 2-0 with goals from Menam Hussein and Sabah Hatem, and in the following game they thrashed F.C. Punjab Police 6-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Ghanim Abdul-Hamid and goals from Mudhafar Nouri, Sabah Hatem and Riyadh Nouri. This gave the Police four points from four and ensured that they advanced.
With Taj Tehran winning Group A, Al Shorta were set up to face the defending Asian champions once again in the Iraqis' decisive game. The Police proved they were Asia's best by beating them again, this time by a score of 2-0, with goals from Menam Hussein (via a fantastic right-wing cross from Mudhafar Nouri) and Shaker Ismail (on 35 minutes) completing Al Shorta's mission of conquering Asia. The Harps were set to play against Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv on two separate occasions during the tournament but the proud Arabs refused to face off against the Zionists and instead waved the Palestinian and Iraqi flags around the field to rapturous applause from the Thai audience.
Al Shorta returned to Baghdad as heroes and received an amazing welcome from the fans, even holding an open-top bus parade in celebration of the success. Israel were subsequently expelled from the AFC, making the triumph even sweeter for 'Al Qeetharah' in what remains the greatest achievement in all of Iraqi club football.
1997-98 Asian Cup Winners' Cup
In the 1997-98 season, Al Shorta qualified for another AFC tournament. However, it wasn't the Asian Club Championship this time, but the Asian Cup Winners' Cup. This was a tournament for the cup winners of Asian countries, however, Al Zawraa had won both the league and the cup in Iraq, so the IFA admitted cup runners-up Al Shorta into the competition. The Police were eventually knocked out of the quarter-finals of this tournament.
Al Shorta were drawn to play against Al Seeb of Oman in a two-legged tie in round one. Al Shorta suffered a 3-2 defeat in the first leg; Saad Qais and Alaa Kadhim put Al Shorta two goals up but the Police collapsed in the second-half and conceded three goals. The second leg was a different story, however. Al Shorta were at home and it seemed to help them as goals from Alaa Kadhim and Mafeed Assem saw them run out 2-0 victors to advance to the second round after a 4-3 aggregate win. Sadly, Alaa Kadhim lost four teeth scoring the first goal due to the extreme violence of Al Seeb's Nigerian defender; he was immediately sent to hospital after scoring the goal.
In the second round, Al Shorta would face off against Iranian club Bargh Shiraz in another two-legged tie. The first leg, played in Iran, finished in a 1-1 draw thanks to Alaa Kadhim's third goal of the tournament for Al Shorta, but 'Al Qeetharah' managed to win again in Baghdad; this time it was a 2-1 victory with Mafeed Assem's spectacular 54th-minute bicycle kick and Sadiq Sadoun's goal putting them through to the quarter-finals due to their 3-2 aggregate win.
The quarter-finals was where Al Shorta were finally knocked out of the competition. Their conquerors were Köpetdag Ashgabat. Al Shorta were thrashed 4-0 by the club from Turkmenistan in the first leg, with Saad Qais and Mahmoud Majeed getting sent off at the end of the first-half and Mafeed Assem getting sent off in the last quarter of an hour leaving Al Shorta with just eight men at the end of the game. The 1-1 draw that they managed to get in the second leg at home (with Sadiq Sadoun being the Al Shorta player on the scoresheet) wasn't enough to send them through as Köpetdag Ashgabat won the tie 5-1 on aggregate. The eventual winners of the tournament were Saudi club Al Nasr.
Al Shorta had performed well throughout the tournament and, although they did not win the tournament, a quarter-final defeat was respectable.
1999-2000 Asian Club Championship
Al Shorta qualified for the 1999-2000 Asian Club Championship as Iraqi Premier League champions and they managed to get to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Al Shorta started in the second round. They faced Al Wahda of Lebanon in a round of two legs. Al Shorta crushed Al Wahda 5-0 in the first-leg with one goal from Haidar Mahmoud, an own goal, two goals from Alaa Kadhim and one goal from Arkan Mahmoud. They managed to earn a 0-0 draw in the second leg to win the tie 5-0 on aggregate.
This meant Al Shorta had qualified to the quarter-finals, which was made up of an East Asian group and a West Asian group. Al Shorta were in the West Asian group with Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Persepolis of Iran and Irtysh Pavlodar of Kazakhstan.
Al Shorta drew 0-0 against Persepolis in their first game, and then lost 1-0 to Al Hilal with Abdullah Aljamman's 67th-minute goal, a calm left-footed finish across the 'keeper, winning the game for the Saudi outfit, who also had a penalty saved by Iraqi 'keeper Hashim Khamis. This meant that in order for Al Shorta to qualify for the semi-finals, they needed to defeat Irtysh Pavlodar in their final group game and hope that Al Hilal beat Persepolis in the other match on that day.
Al Shorta didn't get off to a good start against Irtysh and went a goal behind on 27 minutes when Andrei Miroshichenko put the Kazakh side in front. Al Shorta managed to find an equaliser five minutes into the second-half though when Haidar Mahmoud played a clever one-two and fired a powerful shot into the top corner of the Irtysh net. And the Iraqi side took the lead on 64 minutes when Sabah Jeayer received the ball close to the goal from a cut-back and slammed it into the net with his left foot at the 'keeper's near post.
Al Shorta thought that would be enough to win the game, but five minutes from the end, Nilton Mendes equalised for Irtysh Pavlodar from the penalty spot and Al Shorta had to score again in the last five minutes in order to stand any chance of reaching the semis. But Al Shorta did just that, when Sabah Jeayer won them the game in the 89th minute by sneaking his close-range effort underneath the onrushing 'keeper and into the net. Al Shorta won the game 3-2, but still needed Al Hilal to defeat Persepolis in order to reach the semis. Unfortunately, Al Hilal were only able to muster a goalless draw with their opponents, and Al Shorta were knocked out at the quarter-final stage, one point behind Persepolis who advanced to the semis.
In 2004, Al Shorta were admitted into the AFC Champions League by the IFA after being crowned the 2002-03 Iraqi First Division champions. Al Ahly of Bahrain, who had been drawn into Group C of the tournament with Al Shorta, withdrew from the competition before it started, so the other three teams in the group were therefore awarded 3-0 walkover victories in their two scheduled games against the Bahraini outfit, meaning all three teams started out on six points. Al Shorta were forced to play their home games in Damascus, Syria due to security concerns in Iraq.
Al Shorta, coached by legendary striker Younis Abid Ali, started the tournament against Al Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates, losing 2-0 thanks to Othman El Assas' 80th minute strike and substitute Saeed Al Kaas' goal on 86 minutes, despite having a number of good first-half chances.
Al Shorta's second game was against Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia; they lost the game 2-1. Al Shorta impressively dominated the Saudi giants yet still found themselves behind at half-time after Ahmed Al Suwailh's powerful header put Al Hilal in front just before the break. Amar Abbas equalised for Al Shorta 10 minutes into the second-half with a rocket shot but, for all their efforts, Jatoo Ceesay managed to win the game for Al Hilal on 72 minutes with a close-range effort.
Al Shorta travelled to play Al Hilal again in their next game, this time losing 2-0 thanks to a brace from Al Hilal's Ivorian striker Kandia Traore; his first goal (on 36 minutes) was an astonishing left-foot shot from 30 yards out, just a few minutes after Al Hilal had had a penalty saved by 'keeper Ali Husain, and Traore capitalised on some poor Al Shorta defending to grab his brace and all three points for his side three minutes into the second-half injury time.
Al Shorta finished off their tournament with another match against Al Sharjah. This time, Al Shorta only lost 3-2, and had ten men for most of the game; on top of that, Al Sharjah's winning goal was a controversially-awarded penalty, so Al Shorta were very unlucky to be on the receiving end of a defeat yet again. Tassyer Abdulhussein scored for Al Shorta on 23 minutes after going past three defenders before slotting home, but just seven minutes later Brazilian striker Anderson Barbosa turned in a cross to level the scores. Within two minutes of Barbosa's goal, Al Shorta defender Samal Saeed was sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Barbosa, and the Brazilian made it 2-1 to the Emirati side on 44 minutes with a free-kick. But, there was more to come in an eventful first-half as Al Shorta's Amar Abbas netted a penalty to equalise for Al Shorta in first-half injury time after a handball incident. Despite having ten men, Al Shorta continued their domination into the second-half, only for the referee to give a disputed penalty to Al Sharjah which Othman El Assas converted on 68 minutes to end Al Shorta's disappointing tournament. The Harps ended on six points, seven behind Al Hilal and ten behind Al Sharjah.
For the second year in a row, Al Shorta qualified for the AFC Champions League. They qualified by defeating Al Quwa Al Jawiya 4-3 on aggregate in the qualification play-offs organised by the IFA after the cancellation of the 2003-04 season. They were drawn into Group A with Al Salmiyah of Kuwait, Pas Hamedan of Iran and Al Rayyan of Qatar. This time Al Shorta managed to earn two points during the tournament but sadly finished bottom of Group A. This year, Al Shorta played their home games in Jordan as they were still not allowed to play AFC games in Iraq.
Younis Abid Ali started the tournament as manager and his squad consisted of 30 players: Goalkeepers Ali Husain Jalil, Ali Aziz, Mohammed Gassid and Saifalddin Zaman, defenders Mohammed Ali Karim, Anmar Salman, Maher Habeeb, Salam Shakir, Samal Saeed, Jassim Swadi, Haider Ahmed and Wissam Nassir, midfielders Tassyer Abdulhussein, Ahmed Sabri, Saad Hashim, Firas Fadhil, Abbas Hussein, Kassim Zidan, captain Ayad Abbas, Ali Abbas, Khalid Saad and Safaa Kadhim, and forwards Abbas Jafar, Ammar Kadhim, Hashim Ridha, Suhail Naem, Abbas Raheem, Bashar Saad, Qusay Abdul-Wahid and Mohammed Abdulrahman.
Al Shorta started off their campaign against Al Salmiyah and lost the game 3-1. Charles Dago scored a brace for Al Salmiyah, the first was a penalty on two minutes and the second was on 52 minutes. 10 minutes later, Ali Abdul-Redha made it 3-0 with a fine strike and Qussay Abdul-Wahid scored what turned out to be a consolation goal for Al Shorta on 80 minutes. After the game, manager Younis Abid Ali resigned as manager of the club with Salih Radhi taking charge.
After the 3-1 loss, Al Shorta had to face Iranian club Pas Hamedan and they drew the game 1-1. Al Shorta's captain Ayad Abbas opened the scoring on 31 minutes with a header from Hashim Ridha's cross but Issa Traore levelled the game up for Pas Hamedan on 62 minutes with a powerful shot from the edge of the area. Al Shorta had goalkeeper Ali Husain to thank for keeping the scores level as he constantly pulled off outstanding saves in the game.
Al Shorta then played Al Rayyan, and were aiming to get more points from this game. However Al Rayyan comfortably defeated Al Shorta 2-0 thanks to a brilliant chip from Ali Bernarbia on 66 minutes and a driven strike from Brazilian player Sonny Anderson on 77 minutes.
Al Shorta restored some pride thirteen days later, playing Al Rayyan again but this time earning a 0-0 draw in Amman; the Iraqi side dominated the game and hit the post twice during the course of the 90 minutes. They were unlucky not to go home with the three points.
After gaining a point from the match against Al Rayyan, Al Shorta went into their second match with Al Salmiyah hoping that they could get their first win of the tournament. However, they were defeated again despite having far more possession than their opponents; Abdulaziz Al Ammar of Al Salmiyah scored the only goal of the game on 29 minutes with a coolly-taken header.
Al Shorta finished off their tournament with a match against Pas Hamedan. It was Al Shorta's last chance to win a game in the tournament but sadly it just wasn't to be as Hossein Pashaei of Pas Hamedan scored on 86 minutes to win the game for his team; once again the goal was a header and defending crosses was one of Al Shorta's main weaknesses throughout the competition.
It was another bad tournament for Al Shorta but it was a nice experience overall and they will be hoping they can perform better the next time they qualify for the AFC Champions League group stages.
2014 AFC Champions League
In February 2014, Al Shorta participated in the qualifiers for the AFC Champions League after winning the 2012-13 Iraqi Premier League.
Originally, Al Shorta were to go straight into the AFC Cup after winning the league by two points ahead of closest challengers Erbil. However, a change in the rules meant that Al Shorta could enter the qualification stage for the AFC Champions League, Asia's main club tournament. The qualifiers consisted of three one-legged rounds. Al Shorta, coached by Brazilian Lorival Santos (read our exclusive interview with Lorival here) were drawn up against Al Kuwait S.C. and the two teams would meet at Al Kuwait S.C.'s stadium, with the winner of the match travelling to Uzbekistan to play Lokomotiv Tashkent six days later in round two of the qualifiers.
Al Shorta and Al Kuwait S.C. faced off on 02/02/2014, but sadly for the Iraqi champions, Al Shorta lost the game 1-0. Javad Nekounam's long-range effort found its way into the net on 63 minutes and Al Shorta, who had had Nashat Akram injured earlier on in the game, could not find a way back into the game. The team in white celebrated at the final-whistle, whilst 'Al Qeetharah' were left shattered. The Police had played better throughout the game and had the better chances, most notably from Cristiano da Silva Santos and Amjad Kalaf, but they could not put them away. The defeat meant that Al Shorta would instead participate in the 2014 AFC Cup and Al Kuwait S.C. would advance to round two of the qualifiers against Lokomotiv Tashkent.
2014 AFC Cup
After the disappointment of failing to qualify for the AFC Champions League, Al Shorta played in the 2014 AFC Cup in Group C alongside Al Qadsia of Kuwait, Al Hidd of Bahrain and Al Wahda of Syria. They finished third in the group, one place away from the next round, and drew four out of their six games 0-0.
Their first game was a 'home' tie against Al Qadsia but all of Al Shorta's home games were to be played in Qatar due to the lack of safety in Iraq. Al Qadsia were the 2013 AFC Cup runners-up, meaning that the goalless draw Al Shorta played out in this game was very respectable for a club who was playing their first ever game in the tournament, especially considering the fact that the Iraqi champions dominated the game. Al Shorta's Brazilian manager Lorival Santos echoed similar statements in our exclusive interview with him, which you can read here. Iraqi striker Mustafa Kareem missed the best two chances of the game, missing an open goal in the first-half before running through on goal in the second period only to provide a tame shot that the 'keeper managed to save.
Despite not gaining three points in the game, Al Shorta went into their match against Al Wahda with confidence and ended up winning the match 3-1, their first ever AFC Cup win. Mohamed Bash Beok opened the scoring for Al Wahda in the first-half but two good finishes from Amjad Kalaf in as many minutes put the Police into the lead before a Mahdi Kareem penalty in the last minute that was won by Ahmed Fadhel secured the three points. The win moved them to the top of Group C and 'Al Qeetharah' were confident of securing a place in the next round.
However, all went downhill from that game. Al Shorta's two strikers, Mustafa Kareem and Cristiano da Silva Santos, were both nursing injuries that ruled them out of the remainder of the tournament and Al Shorta drew their next game at Al Hidd 0-0 before playing out another goalless draw with the Bahraini side two weeks later in Qatar.
But Al Shorta were still in second place before they went to Kuwait to play group leaders Al Qadsia, which was enough to qualify for the round of 16. However, Al Shorta could only field a weakened side due to injuries and the suspension to Amjad Kalaf (who had been sent off in the second goalless draw with Al Hidd) and were well-beaten 3-0 by ten-man Al Qadsia with a hat-trick from their Syrian forward Omar Alsoma sealing their passage to the round of 16.
Al Shorta went into their final game with bottom-of-the-group Al Wahda knowing that they had to win the game and hope that Al Qadsia defeated Al Hidd in order for Al Shorta to reach the next phase of the tournament. However, neither of the results went their way. Al Shorta played out yet another goalless draw, their fourth of the tournament, and went down to ten men near the end of the game after Hamdy Al-Massri's red card, while Al Hidd defeated an unmotivated Al Qadsia 3-2 to book their place in the hat for the next round. Al Shorta were out, finishing with seven points, four points behind both the group winners Al Qadsia and second-placed Al Hidd and five points ahead of Al Wahda.
Despite their failure to advance past the group stages, there were some positives to take from the tournament. The players gained valuable experience of playing in a continental competition and won their first ever game in the AFC Cup. When you consider the fact that they had to deal with many untimely injuries and suspensions and the fact that they were not allowed to play home games in Iraq, Al Shorta did fairly well to only get defeated once in the entire tournament.
2015 AFC Cup
By winning the Iraqi Premier League in the 2013-14 season in what was their second consecutive league title, Al Shorta qualified for the AFC Cup again. They were set to participate in the AFC Champions League qualifiers like last year, but in the end, Iraq unexpectedly earned only two AFC Cup spots and zero AFC Champions League places for the season.
Al Shorta were drawn into Group B with Al Jazeera of Jordan, Taraji Wadi Al Nes of Palestine and Al Hidd of Bahrain. Al Jazeera did not even expect to be in the tournament as they finished third in the Jordanian league and only qualified because the Jordanian runners-up could not participate, whilst Taraji Wadi Al Nes were playing in their first ever AFC competition after winning the Palestinian league and Al Hidd only just managed to qualify for the competition by defeating Al Saqr by two goals to one in the qualifiers. This meant that Al Shorta were clear favourites to win the group, and they did exactly that, before exiting the competition at the round of 16 stage. Once again, all of Al Shorta's home games were played in Qatar.
Al Shorta's first game was a 'home' match against Bahraini side Al Hidd, the team they drew 0-0 with twice last season. Al Shorta ensured that the game could not be goalless again within two minutes when Brazilian striker Caion won a penalty which Waleed Salem slotted home, and they grabbed another just eleven minutes after when captain Amjad Kalaf fired Caion's cut-back into the net. It was the perfect start which showed just how much of a dangerous team Al Shorta could be, but by the end of the first-half, it was somehow 2-2 courtesy of a tame effort and a tap-in from Rico and Jassim Ayyash respectively and the game ended in a draw. Both goals were poorly defended by Al Shorta and it was definitely something that Egyptian manager Mohamed Youssef would have been concerned with.
Al Shorta then travelled to Jordan to face Al Jazeera in their next AFC Cup game and, wearing their white away kit for the first time in the season, the Police took another early lead when Marwan Hussein won a penalty which the experienced Mahdi Kareem converted in the seventh minute to put Al Shorta into the lead. However, their defensive liabilities were displayed again just five minutes later when Waleed Salem failed to intercept a through ball, inadvertently putting the ball on a plate for Al Jazeera’s Franco Alves, who twisted and turned past both Salam Shakir and Mohammed Hameed before squeezing the ball past Hameed’s near post. Again, the second-half was goalless meaning that Al Shorta had got two points from two games and had got off to a slow start in the competition.
The next match Al Shorta played was when they really got into gear. Playing Taraji Wadi Al Nes in Qatar, Al Shorta put six past the Palestinians in a 6-2 victory. Alaa Abdul-Zahra scored a tap-in and a half-volley either side of Amjad Kalaf's goal in the first-half to make it 3-0 before Taraji Wadi Al Nes' Fadi Zidan lobbed Mohammed Gassid in goal to make it 3-1. Al Shorta had enough time to get another goal before half-time though when Marwan Hussein scored, and Dhurgham Ismail and Marwan Hussein added gloss to the scoreline either side of another Fadi Zidan goal as the game ended 6-2 and Al Shorta went to the top of Group B.
Their next game was their most disappointing match in their 2015 AFC Cup campaign. Al Shorta suffered their first loss in all competitions for almost ten months when they fell to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at Taraji Wadi Al Nes, who were perceived to be one of the weakest teams in the tournament and who earned their first ever win in an AFC competition in the process. The goal came in the second-half when stand-in goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed let a harmless free-kick bounce through his legs as he bent down to catch it.
Al Shorta were now a point behind Al Jazeera who were top of the group, and failed to make that point up in their next game when they drew 1-1 at Al Hidd in another disappointing result; Cameroonian Makadji Boukar had to rescue Al Shorta late on as they went a goal down with around 20 minutes remaining. They were now three points behind Al Jazeera, but if they could defeat Al Jazeera in their final game, they would overtake Al Jazeera due to their superior head-to-head record with them and would ensure qualification to the round of 16 for the first time in their history.
Before the Al Jazeera game, some surprising news came out as it was revealed that Egyptian manager Mohamed Youssef had been sacked by Al Shorta and replaced by Iraqi manager Thair Jassam who won the league title with the club in 2013. But, it looked to have been the correct decision by the Al Shorta board when 'Al Qeetharah' hammered Al Jazeera 4-0 in Thair's first match in charge in Qatar to top the group, with Marwan Hussein scoring two (and becoming Al Shorta's top scorer in the competition), Caion scoring a header and Waleed Salem seeing his stunning long-range effort go in off the 'keeper.
Al Shorta's enjoyable AFC Cup run was sadly ended at the round of 16 stage; Al Shorta were pitted with Group D runners-up (and three-time AFC Cup winners) Al Kuwait S.C. at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Qatar in a single-legged tie and unfortunately lost the game 2-0, conceding two late goals in the 80th and 93rd minutes through Abdullah Al Buraiki's controversially-awarded penalty and Rogerio de Assis Coutinho's counter-attacking goal respectively.
It was a decent tournament for Al Shorta who outperformed the other Iraqi club in the tournament, Erbil (who were knocked out in the group stage), but their fans will certainly be hoping for a better showing the next time they qualify for the competition.
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