Iraqi cycling clubs are preparing to compete in the first stage of the Iraqi cycling club championship, set to begin February 24th in Najaf province.
Ahmed Sabri, secretary of the Iraqi Central Cycling Federation (ICCF), said the federation is focusing on the club championship because Iraqi cyclists did not receive the necessary visas to participate in the Asian youth championship that will be held in Thailand later this month.
"The federation is now working on preparing Iraqi male and female cyclists for the Arab tournament that will be held in the Qatari capital of Doha at the end of this year," Sabri said. "We hope to win different medals this year."
In addition to the tournament in Doha, the Iraqi national cycling team will also participate in the South Korea international championship in April, the Azerbaijan international championship in May, Golan championship in Syria in June and Marmara international championship in Turkey in July.
"The players of the Iraqi national team will be chosen based on the results of the first round of the local league," Sabri said. "The players will start their training sessions under the supervision of trainer Ali Hameed early next March. The federation is trying to overcome the negative aspects of the game and focus on a plan to ensure that achievements are made according to a strategic vision that would bring the game back to the forefront."
The ICCF also received official approval and funding from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to build a cycling track in Baghdad.
"This step will be very beneficial for Baghdadi clubs in particular, since the clubs will overcome the current problem of the absence of a track where players can train. This was one of the most difficult obstacles impeding the development of the sport," said Dhiya Adin Abbas, trainer of al-Sinaa Cycling Club.
Al-Sinaa took second place in the Iraqi cycling club championship last season. Erbil won the tournament and al-Kahrabaa took third place.
Iraq's national youth team won third place in the Arab championship held in the United Arab Emirates last July. In addition, an Iraqi cyclist won third place last April in the 2010 Asian Championship, which was also held in the UAE.
The Iraqi women's team has also had considerable success. Iraqi female cyclists won three silver medals in the Arab championship hosted by the UAE two years ago.
The ICCF was founded in 1956. It joined the Asian Cycling Federation in 1971 and the Arab Cycling Federation in 1975.