By Army Sgt. Zach Mott
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2009 - As a two-time Olympian shouted instructions from the side, two boxers sparred for a crowd of onlookers to celebrate the reopening of the Adhamiyah Sports Complex in northeastern Baghdad yesterday. Following a $200,000 facelift funded through the coalition's Commanders' Emergency Response Program, the complex now boasts a remodeled boxing gym, an indoor basketball court/soccer field, an administration office and a FIFA-regulation 5-on-5 Astroturf soccer field.
"Adhamiyah, as a whole, has been waiting for this complex to reopen for a while," said Army Capt. William Murphy, a Waltham, Mass., native who serves as civil affairs team leader for Company A, 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad.
The complex once was the training grounds for many former Iraqi Olympians. Farouk Changchun, one of those former national champions, now heads the boxing program there.
Changchun, who competed in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, served as the flag bearer for his country during the 1980 Moscow Games. As his young protégées put on a demonstration for the crowd, Changchun gushed over the new gear donated by USA Boxing. The donation included headgear, gloves, trunks and shirts.
"We are happy to get any help in sports material and supplies from USA Boxing, because it spreads the feeling of humanity everywhere," Changchun said. "A lot of people think that boxers have very harsh feelings and a very hard heart, but it's not true. Boxers have a very kind heart."
Changchun said he is hopeful that some of his students will one day get to represent Iraq as he was able to do twice.
"I'm hoping that there are future Olympians in this room," he said.
As the boxing demonstration concluded, there was another important event at the complex. A soccer match between the predominantly Shiia district of Kadhamiyah and the Sunni dominated Adhamiyah district was being played on the newly opened Astroturf field.
"That's the greatest accomplishment for this entire project," Murphy said.
(Army Sgt. Zach Mott serves in the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)