It all seemed so insignificant: the international game, soccer, Americanized to go indoors at the Tacoma Dome, was completely overshadowed by the international drama of war or peace being played out Tuesday.
If it was hard for those in attendance to focus on the game involving the Sockers and the Tacoma Stars, you can imagine how difficult it was for Waad Hirmez.
Hirmez, a Sockers midfielder, was born in Baghdad, Iraq, but he’s lived in the United States since 1979. He’s a citizen of the United States, but in a larger sense, a citizen of both countries.
Plainly, the conflict was tearing him apart.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Hirmez, born Waad Ajou. “I still have relatives there. It’s a very sad situation. I can never see my homeland again. That’s the scary part.
“When I’m off the field, everything I hear about is the crisis. It doesn’t help much that I come from there. Everybody says we should destroy the country. I don’t like to hear that.”
Tuesday, his personal crucible had arrived.
“I try not to think about it at game time,” he said before the kickoff. “We could be at halftime and the war starts. God knows, my relatives could be wiped out.”
Hirmez last lived in Baghdad as a junior high school student and has returned only once, for a two-week vacation in 1982. But he has a sense of hopeful resignation about the crisis.
“I do sense a finality about the events. I have mixed emotions. Everything I hear here is negative about Iraq. It’s not that bad. I chose to be an American citizen. That doesn’t mean I forget my memories from there.”
Some of them include a basically peaceful, non-malevolent Saddam Hussein during the late 1970s. Then, as now, Hirmez said, he had wide support from the Iraqi people.
“He’s a very determined, firm person,” Hirmez said. “If you don’t mess with him and his party, you’re OK. If do something wrong, you get punished big.
“Though freedom is non-existent, they support him. They love him. They would do anything for him. He’s a person for his country and his people. I never thought he’d be that aggressive. He really has taken a different direction.”
Hirmez sees no winners in a conflict over Kuwait--except the exiled Kuwaiti royal family.
“The only winner will be Kuwait. Iraq will get casualties. We will. Kuwait will go back. The rulers will go back.
“Some of the people there were happy with the invasion. That family had been in power for years. It’s a no-win situation. We’re thinking that we free Kuwait. Big deal. We’ll lose so many people. But with what I know about Saddam, I think he may pull out after the deadline.”