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Burning oil wells no match for soccer-loving Iraqis

Soccer players from Team Asoosa, in Qayyarah, are rejoicing in reuniting and being able to again play the game they love after their town's liberation from the Islamic State.
TOPSHOT - Children play football as oil wells, set ablaze by retreating Islamic State (IS) jihadists, burn behind them in the town of Qayyarah, some 70 km south of Mosul on November 20, 2016.
Locals told AFP that they face a range of health issues including breathing difficulties, and sheperds said they could not sell their livestock as the sheep's fleece was blackened by smoke. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN        (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

QAYYARAH, Iraq — Clouds of black smoke continue to fill the gloomy-looking sky in Qayyarah, south of Mosul, casting an ominous aura above the land over which they cast a shadow. Islamic State (IS) fighters lost control of the town they once lorded over on Aug. 25, 2016, and in October, when pushed from nearby territory set the oil wells of northern Iraq ablaze in a wretched, last ditch effort to spread even more terror among people who have wanted nothing more than the simple life, including the members of Team Asoosa (Founders Team) football club.

The players — young Iraqi men who for the last few years have wanted to play football on the fields they grew up on — finally began reuniting in February after months as internally displaced persons (IDPs). “You’ll find us here every evening, from 3:30 p.m. until night,” Nadheen Nimr, an Arabic teacher and club organizer, told Al-Monitor. “Next time bring your boots,” Nimr said jokingly, referring to soccer shoes, not the military kind with which they have become all too familiar.

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