Reds of the World will be a series of interviews with supporters from around the globe. If you’d like to participate, get in touch with me via Twitter, @kframpton.
Our series rolls on, this time with a short, 3,500-mile jaunt from the banks of the River Irwell to those of the Tigris. That’s right, we’re off to Baghdad with our guide Alaa, who is the gaffer of the Iraqi Supporters Club.
Baghdad has been around for well over 1,200 years and currently it is thought that there are around nine million inhabitants. Things have not been easy for Baghdadis over the years, so I’m guessing that a chance to simply watch the football with some like-minded mates is a welcome pleasure. I think you’ll see that in some of the photos that Alaa has graciously provided. Check out more great shots on the club’s Twitter feed – @MUSCIRAQ.
1. Who are you and where are you from?
I am Alaa Saadi Thamer, I’m 26 and Chairman of the Manchester United Supporters Club Iraq. I am from Baghdad.
2. How did you come to support Manchester United?
I came to support Manchester United in 2000 when I was at primary school. I began to collect stickers of Man United players, as the stickers were cheap and small and because other merchandise was not available at that time.
3. Who is your favourite current player and why?
My favourite player is Wayne Rooney because he is the soul of the team and an active leader who sacrifices for his team. The only thing that interests him is victory for his club.
4. Who is your favourite past player and why?
My past favourite player was David Beckham because he is the best player who has worn United’s number 7 in my opinion. As well, his attractive play opened my eyes and made me love football. Because of him I support the English team as well.
5. What is your favourite MUFC moment?
My favorite moment was the Champions League Final in 2008 between Manchester United and Chelsea in which we won it for the third time.
6. Have you ever been to Old Trafford or seen the club live on tour?
I have never been to Old Trafford before because a visa from Iraq to England is semi-impossible.
7. How do you typically watch MUFC matches? And if the game kicks off at 1500 in Macnhester, what time is it in your area?
I used to watch all the matches at home, but in 2014 I established the Manchester United Supporters Club in Iraq. Our first gathering was on 14 Feb 2014 and eight months later – on 26 Oct 2014 – we were granted the official concession from the club.
Now we watch all the matches in Al Mansour Mall / Galaxy Chef Cafe (the most popular mall in Baghdad) as this is our official Headquarters for our gatherings. When United kick off at 15:00 in Manchester it is 17:00 in Baghdad.
8. Is football the most popular sport in your country? What others do people watch?
Football is the most popular sport in our country, after that I’d say tennis is definitely popular – especially Grand Slam events. [editor’s note – there are four clubs in Baghdad alone!]
9. Where will MUFC finish in the Premier League this season?
I hope to be the Champions again, but I think because of the large number of departures and not adding players to our squad in the weaker defense and forward positions we will finish the season in the second or third position in the table. I hope to be wrong!
10. Will MUFC win a trophy? If yes, which one[s]?
I hope Premier League or Champions League, but as I told you in point 9 the squad may not be strong enough. I think we will win FA Cup or Capital One Cup or maybe both.