By Joe Snell | August 2021 | Photos by Khoyada
A soccer tournament in honor of the late Assyrian leader Ashur Eskrya wrapped up last week in Duhok.
Sixteen teams from across northern Iraq participated in the competition representing towns and cities including Mangesh, the villages of Dawodiya, Malabrwan, Hazargod, and the Semele region.
“The tournament is meant to be a celebration of Ashur’s life and the annual Akitu soccer tournament where he would pitch the ceremonial kickoff,” said Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A) Vice President Renya Benjamen who, alongside her husband Dr. Joseph Danavi, supported the Duhok brank of Khoyada, AAS-A and the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq (AAS-I) in organizing the tournament. “This tournament is a vibrant display of two grassroots organizations we are very close to, the Assyrian Aid Society and Khoyada Student and Youth Union, collaborating to provide joy to the youth and pride to the competing villages,” Benjamen wrote to the Journal.
The championship match on Aug. 23 began with a minute of silence followed by speeches from political and organizational leaders. The son of the late Eskrya, Sennacherib Ashur, welcomed the players by kicking the ball from the center of the pitch. The team of Brewer beat Hazargod 3-2. Trophies and medals were given to the teams as well as individual prizes.
Fouad Touma received the award for the best player of the tournament. The top scorer of the games was Fadi Iyad and Artin Khoshaba won the award for the best goalkeeper.
Eskrya passed away on April 9 due to complications from the coronavirus. Born in 1974, he graduated from Baghdad University and later became a civil engineer. In 2003, he joined AAS-I and became president in 2010, guiding the humanitarian nonprofit through some of its most challenging years during and after the ISIS genocide.
Through AAS-I, Eskrya led reconstruction projects, built and maintained medical facilities, provided specialized coronavirus care and refugee relief, organized rural initiatives such as building irrigation channels, and fought for educational opportunities for Assyrian youth. In total, 27 AAS-I-funded schools provided K-12 schooling in the Assyrian language and served over 2,600 students. In 2016, AAS-I was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
A virtual memorial tribute in May honored Eskrya.
“He was a consensus builder who reached across the table to find common ground,” wrote historian Alda Benjamen.
See more pictures from the event here.