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Iraqi Footballer Sports Hero Laid to Rest
By Ray Yono :: Monday, June 8, 2009 :: 40262 Views :: Sports, Art, and Entertainment

Baghdad, IRAQ – Christan and Muslim Iraqis mourn the passing of one of their countryman’s sports heroes.  Emmanuel Baba Dawud, better known as Ammo Baba (Uncle Father).  He was known as the Arab world’s Pele, the “Sheikh of Iraqi coaches”, and a winged angel.  He scored the first ever international goal for Iraq against Morocco at the second Pan-Arab Games in Beirut in 1957 and coached the Iraqi national football team to various victories. 

Ammo Baba led Iraq to three titles in the Arabian Gulf football tournaments and the gold medal in the 1982 Asian Games in India. He was revered as a hero in his homeland.

Ammo Baba was born in Hinaidi, Baghdad during a time when Muslim and Christian relations were civil.  Dawud was a reluctant pupil at the base’s school. “I used to run out of school,” he recalled. “I was very lazy in my lessons, but I was very good at sports.”

So good that, for a time, he held the record as one of Iraq’s fastest 400-metre runners.

Hours spent watching British and Iraqi soldiers playing matches around the base and practicing with his “football”, a sock stuffed with strips of fabric, paid off.

Selected by Iraqi coach Ismail Mohammed, Dawud made his debut with the Iraqi schoolboys in the second Pan-Arab School Championship in Cairo in 1951. For the rest of the decade, he played for the Iraqi Air Force football team, consolidating a reputation as the best forward in the country.

During the ambitious pan-Arab movement, masterminded by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel-Nasser, he was one of two players selected from Iraq to take part in the Arab national team, which proved to be a short-lived exercise.

With regime change in Iraq in 1958, Dawud’s career became less certain, especially after his refusal to join the Baath party in 1964. He moved from club to club, and never quite recovered from a serious injury in 1965. In 1979, he was appointed coach of the Iraqi national team. It was a challenging position that necessitated dealings with the mercurial Uday Hussein, the president’s son and minister of sport, and Dawud was imprisoned on several occasions on spurious charges.

His later years were plagued by diabetes: two toes were amputated and he suffered increasingly from poor vision. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

His wife and son had lived in exile for many years though Dawud himself seldom left Iraq. Latterly, he had devoted his time to developing a football school for underprivileged children in Baghdad.

Emmanuel Baba Dawud was born on Nov 27, 1934. He died on May 27.

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.