Foreign Professionals in Iraq


Foreign players have worn the colours of Iraqi teams from the early beginnings of football in Mesopotamia. In the early 1920s, the FA Cup (later renamed the Casuals Cup), Baghdad FA rules allowed for one foreign player, predominantly British, for each participating team. The Basra Petroleum Company team that won the Iraq Championship in season 1948-1949 had two British players in their ranks. There have been other foreign nationals that have played in Iraq. Haifa, a Palestinian club based in Baghdad, had several players of Palestinian origin on their books, the most well known being Palestine national keeper Loay Hosni. The Baghdad-born player represented his country on several occasions including the 9th Pan Arab Games in Amman in 1999, where Palestine finished third gaining a bronze medal. Another Baghdad born player of Palestinian origin was forward Muayad Salim Mansour, who began his career in 1988 in the youth team of Al-Talaba, where he spent six years before joining Haifa and then rejoining Al-Talaba. After a season with Al-Jaish, he guested for Palestinian club Markez Shabab Al-Amari at the 13th Arab Club Champions Cup in 1997 and was spotted by Al-Faisali officials and signed for the Jordanian club. He took Jordanian nationality and a year later was called up by national coach Mohammed Awad and made his debut in a 3-0 victory over Syria, scoring one goal. Then comes the strange case of Egyptian left back Mohammed Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Masry who played seven seasons for second division club Al-Sharqat between 1998 and 2005 unbeknownst to the officials at the Olympic Committee and the FA. The player had been living in the city of Al-Sharqat in the province of Salah-Al-Deen, and the club had not paid a transfer fee for him. At the time rules prevented foreign professionals playing in the Iraq league, which was why the officials at the Sharqat kept the identity of Mohammed Tawfiq a secret. Al-Talaba did ambitiously try to sign Qatari striker Mohammed Salem Al-Enazi on loan from Al-Rayyan in 1996, to play for the club in the Asian Cup’ Winners Cup but failed. In 2008 Iraqi champions Arbil were the first club to announce their intentions to sign a foreign professional, and were on the verge of signing 27 year-old Nigerian right winger Anthony Entek from a Norwegian club, who according to reports had played for Nigeria in 2005 and in Japan. However on September 22, 2008, club spokesman Jalal Pareshan announced a deal to sign the player had fallen through after problems with his release from the Norwegian FA and his club and that the club board had rejected the idea of signing any other foreign professional for the new season.

On August 23, 2009 at 1pm local time, Guinean striker Ismaël Bangoura arrived at the Arbil International Airport where he was received by Arbil club representative Jawdat Suliman before residing at the Arbil International Hotel, known as the Sheraton. He watched a match between Arbil and Hendren at the Franso Hariri Stadium and met with club president Dr. Abdullah Dazabi, members of the club board and the playing and coaching staff. The local media mistook the player for former Dynamo Kyiv and Guinean player Ismaël Bangoura, and was later known as Ismaël Boga to differentiate from his namesake. The 25 year-old had played for clubs in France, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. On the back of his performances for the Guinean U-23s at the 2007 African Games in Algers, he was selected by coach Robert Nouzaret to play for the national side in the 2008 CAN qualifying rounds. While in Libya, he had scored the fastest goal in the history of the Libyan league on March 25, 2009 scoring after only 9 seconds of a 2-1 victory over Al-Ahly Tripoli. The following day he took part in training and was expected to play in the Jordan Youth Championship before coach Thair Ahmed decided on whether to sign him but due to problems over a visa and his registration he was unable to play. The club received his International Transfer Card (ITC) on September 8 but the club secretary Mahmoud Aziz announced that the club would not hand the player a contract until after the AFC Cup game with Kuwait after the AFC deadline for new player registration on August 30 had passed. On August 26, two Senegalese players arrived in Arbil from Istanbul. The players were 19 year-old midfielder Mohammed Mbaye, a Senegal Under-20 international playing for a top division side in Senegal and Seni Camara, a 21 year-old midfielder who had been playing in the Turkish second division before his contract was terminated by his club. The players had been expected to play for the club at the Jordan Youth Championship but as their names were not on the delegation list they went back Turkey and returned two weeks later. On October 9, Bangoura and Seni Camara started for Arbil in a friendly with Al-Hassanin, with Bangoura netting in the 25th minute after being set-up by Mahdi Karim. In the second half, coach Thair Ahmed made eleven changes to the side bringing on Senegalese midfielder Mohammed Mbaye. Two days later, Bangoura played against Zakho, which Arbil won 3-1, setting up the last goal. On October 13, at a ceremony held at the Franso Hariri Stadium, Bangoura and Seni Camara each signed one-year contracts with the club worth $70,000 US each. The third foreigner Mbaye after failing to win a contract at Arbil, left for a trial with rivals Zakho in the province of Duhok arriving on October 21. He was joined by Palestinian libero Yousef Saeed, who had played under Zakho’s coach Abdul-Amir “Amouri” Ahmed during his time in Lebanon, and on November 6 at an official signing ceremony at the Zakho Stadium, Mbaye and Saeed became the third and fourth foreigners to sign for Iraqi clubs. Mbaye given the No.28 jersey, had signed for one year for 35 million Iraqi dinars, a club record, while Saeed, given the No.5, had signed for one year also for 15m Iraqi dinars. Duhok became the third club to try and sign foreign players when they announced that they would give a trial to Benin defender Bakayoko along with another Senegalese player named Mohammed on October 31. Both players took part in a friendly against Zakho on November 12; however, coach Basim Qasim was unimpressed with Bakayoko and he left for a trial with Zakho, where he played three matches before he was signed by the club. After coach Amouri Ahmed resigned after their opening day drubbing by champions Arbil, Yousef Saeed Meziyan left the club. The defender had already received two-thirds of his $15,000 contract, and had helped the club to promotion to the top flight playing in all five of the play-off matches held in Baghdad. Prior to the start of the Iraqi league, he stated he did not want to play matches in Baghdad and was absent from training before their first league game with Arbil. He negotiated a release from the club and the club board agreed that he would be able to leave if he repaid half of his contract. However after the resignation of Amouri Ahmed, the player cut off all ties with the club and left the country. He played only six league matches in total. On January 19, Senegalese Mbaye left the club after he had been frozen out of the first team and had not even made an appearance in the Iraqi league. His contract was terminated by mutual consent after he had received an offer from a Qatari club.


Ismaël Bangoura II (Guinea) 
Born: 1984
AS Douanes Dakar (SEN)                   2006-2007
Club Athlétique Bizertin (TUN)           2007-2008 
Al-Olympique Azzawiya (LYB)              2008 
Al-Madina Tripoli (LYB)                  2008-2009 
Al-Shawehly Misurata (LYB)               2009 
Arbil (IRQ)                              2009-2010 

Fallou Seni Camara (Senegal)
Born: Dec 5, 1987 in Dakar
ASC Jeanne d'Arc                         2004-2006
Berlin Ankaraspor Kulübü 07 (GER)        2006-2007
Tennis Borussia Berlin (GER) 2007
Berlin Ankaraspor Kulübü 07 (GER)        2007-2008
Karşıyaka S.K. (TUR)                     2008-2009
Arbil (IRQ)                              2009-2010

Mohammed Mbaye (Senegal) 
Born: 1989 in Thiès
Thiès FC                                 2007-2008
ASC Yakaar                               2008-2009
Zakho (IRQ)                              2009-2010 

Yousef Saeed Meziyan (Palestine)
Born: Jan 1, 1978 in Qasimiya Camp, South Lebanon
Al-Ansar (LEB)                           1999-2001
Al-Mabarra (LEB)                         2001-2004
La Sagesse (LEB)                         2004-2007
Al-Wahdat (JOR)                          2007-2008
Al-Ahly Sidon (LEB)                      2008-2009
Zakho (IRQ)                              2009-2010 

Soualio Bakayoko (Benin)
Born: Dec 25, 1985 in Ivory Coast
Olympique Marseille (FRA)                2000-2004
SR Delémont (SWI)                        2004-2005
CS Louhans-Cuiseaux (FRA)                2005
FC Colombier (SWI)                       2005-2006
FC Grenchen (SWI)                        2006-2008
Zakho (IRQ)                              2009-2010 

Nicolas Amougou (Cameroon)
Born: 1976
Zakho                                    2010

Héctor Awand (Cameroon)       
Born: 1983
Zakho                                    2010

George Tiu (Cameroon)
Duhok                                    2010
 
Lionel Otto Essono (Cameroon)
Born: Aug 2, 1992
FC International Lion Ngoma d'Ebolowa    2007-2010
Duhok                                    2010

Nasrat Zaki Al-Jamal (Lebanon)
Born: July 1, 1980 in Beirut
Tadamoun Sur Tyre                        1999-2005
Al-Ansar                                 2005-2010
Duhok                                    2010-2011

Mohammed Baqir Mahmoud Younis (Lebanon)
Born: July 7, 1984
Racing Clube de Beyrouth                 2007-2008
Al-Ansar                                 2008-2010
Duhok                                    2010

Marius Constantin Vintilă (Romania)
Born: January 9, 1982 in Iaşi
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      1999-2001
Steaua Bucureşti                         2001-2002
FC UTA Arad                              2002-2003
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      2003-2004
CFR Cluj                                 2004-2005
Tiligul Tiraspol (MOL)                   2005-2007
Standard Baki (AZE)                      2007-2008
Dacia Chişinău (MOL)                2008-2009
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      2009-2010
Zakho                                    2010-2011

Adrian Ilie (Romania)
Born: November 26, 1981 in Iaşi
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      2002-2005
FCU Poli Timişoara                       2005-2006
Jiul Petroşani                           2006-2007
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      2007-2010
Zakho                                    2010-2011

Ciprian Brighiu (Romania)
Born: 23.09.1983/09.10.1980 in Iaşi
FC Politehnica Iaşi                      2001-2003
CFR Paşcani                              2003
Tornio Pallo-47 (FIN)                    2004-2005
Warkaus JK (FIN)                         2005
Mikkeli (FIN)                            2005
FC Gloria Buzău                          2005-2007
CFR Moldova                              2007-2008
Podgoria Cotnari                         2009
AS Breazu                                2009-2010
Zakho                                    2010-2011

About this document

Prepared and maintained by Hassanin Mubarak for the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation

Author: Hassanin Mubarak (Iraqifootball@yahoo.com)
Last updated: 15 Jul 2011

(C) Copyright Hassanin Mubarak and RSSSF 2010/11
You are free to copy this document in whole or part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the author. All rights reserved.