First Published: 2017-11-16

Football club a symbol for Swedish-Kurdish cohesion
Kurds find joy in success of Dalkurd FF founded just 13 years ago by Kurdish immigrants as it won promotion to Sweden’s top division.
Middle East Online

Supporters of Dalkurd FF celebrating their club's promotion to the first division

STOCKHOLM - Weary of war, persecution, and statelessness, Kurds rejoiced as a Swedish football club founded just 13 years ago by Kurdish immigrants won promotion to the top division.

Scores of cheering fans ran onto the pitch, dancing and waving Kurdish flags last week when Dalkurd FF beat Gothenburg's GAIS 1-0 to earn a seat in next season's Allsvenskan.

Midfielder Rawez Lawan, 30, hit the only goal 59 minutes into the game at the Domnarvsvallen Stadium in the central Swedish city of Borlange on October 28.

"Millions of Kurds are dancing with joy... it's so wonderful to give them this happiness," Lawan told TT news agency after the match.

"This means more than just football."

Dalkurd's victory lifted spirits among Kurds disheartened by the continued violence in Kurdish populated areas of Turkey and the aftermath of the controversial independence referendum in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

"I was very happy when I saw their great results," Ahmed Karim, a 35-year-old resident in Arbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, told AFP.

The Kurds are a non-Arab ethnic group numbering between 25 and 35 million spread across four countries -- southeast Turkey, northern Syria, Iraq and Iran -- without a recognised state of their own.

"I hope they will represent Kurdish sport globally, because we in the Middle East do not have our own Kurdish (national) team," Karim added.

The fallout from last month's vote caused weeks of armed clashes in which Baghdad reasserted control over swathes of oil-rich Kurdish-held territory and triggered the region's president Massud Barzani to step down.

Arslan Abdallah, a sports journalist at the Kurdish Rudaw television channel based in Arbil, said the team's success is "a huge victory for Kurdish athletes in Europe" and in his region.

- 'Driven by pressure'-

The remarkable rise of the squad, which includes Americans, a Palestinian and a Gambian, is built on their defiant personalities, according to their assistant coach Amir Azrafshan.

"They all have something in common when it comes to enjoying a challenge... they're driven by pressure," he said.

The club was formed in 2004 in the central Swedish province of Dalarna, around 300 kilometres northwest of Stockholm, as a social project to help troubled youth integrate into society.

It "gives hope to us immigrants in Sweden that we can succeed," author and social commentator Kurdo Baksi said.

Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported in February 2016 that 49 percent of the club was bought by the two Kurdish "billionaire brothers" Kawa and Sarkat Junad.

"We want to win and be in the highest division as quickly as possible. I would love to see Dalkurd in the Champions League," Sarkat Junad told Aftonbladet at the time.

- 'No friends but the mountains' -

With more than 1.5 million followers on Facebook, the club has become a symbol for Swedish and Kurdish cohesion.

Its logo is a football-shaped version of the Kurdish flag in red, white and green with a yellow star, but with the addition of two horses, a reference to the traditional carved and painted wooden horses of Dalarna.

"Sweden gave us the possibility to feel freedom and receive an education that we didn't have in our (country of origin)," the club's chairman Ramazan Kizil said.

"We've been given a lot and we will give it back to this society," he added.

Dalarna means "dales" in English and the name refers to the breathtaking valleys of the region.

The Kurd's, whose mountainous home region covers almost half a million square kilometres (200,000 square miles) in the Middle East, have a saying that they have "no friends but the mountains".

"It's not a coincidence that the Kurds have left their mountains and ended up in the valleys of Sweden," Baksi said.

 

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Somali journalist killed in front of children

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS