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Iraqi Soccer Fan Shoots Player Dead

Iraqis celebrate the victory of their country's soccer team at the final of the Asian Football Cup 2007
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- An Iraqi soccer fan shot dead a player of the opposing team as he tried to score an equalizing goal in the final minutes of a match, police have said.

The shooting on March 14 in Hillah, 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, during a match between local teams, underscored the country's propensity to lawlessness even as violence by militant groups falls to lows not seen since mid-2003.

"As soon as Haider Kadhim [the player] was alone in front of the goalkeeper and close to equalizing, a fan in the crowd fired a pistol at him," a senior police officer in Hillah, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

"We arrested this fan immediately, but unfortunately the player died."

Iraqis love soccer and have often expressed hope the game would help reconcile warring ethnic groups and sects.

Iraq's surprise victory in the 2007 Asian Cup brought rare joy and unity to the shattered nation, with Shi'a, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds pouring into the streets to celebrate their team's 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the Jakarta final.