The Iraqi Football Association (IFA) have changed the format of the final stage of the league season following fears that the league may go on for longer than scheduled.
Originally, the final stage was going be a single group of eight teams with each team playing each other twice, home and away and the winner of that group becoming the champions. However, to ensure that the season can be finished quicker, the final stage will consist of two groups of four with each side playing the other teams in their group twice. Each group will contain two Group 1 teams from the first stage and two Group 2 teams from the first stage.
The winners of each group will play each other in a two-legged (home and away) final with the winner of the tie being crowned as the champions, meanwhile the runners-up of each group will also face off in a two-legged, home and away tie but for third and fourth place instead.
As it stands, reigning champions Al Shorta are the only side to have mathematically qualified for the final stage.
Al Hidd have qualified for the 2015 AFC Cup, where they will play Al Shorta of Iraq, Al Jazeera of Jordan and Taraji Wadi Al Nes of Palestine in Group B.
Al Shorta and Al Hidd played in the same group in last year's AFC Cup, where Al Hidd finished in second with eleven points in Group C and Al Shorta finished in third.
These are Al Shorta's fixtures for Group B of the 2015 AFC Cup:
24/02/2015 - Al Hidd (N)
10/03/2015 - Al Jazeera (A)
17/03/2015 - Taraji Wadi Al Nes (N)
14/04/2015 - Taraji Wadi Al Nes (A)
28/04/2015 - Al Hidd (A)
12/05/2015 - Al Jazeera (N)
Captain Nashat Akram has confirmed in an interview that he has left Al Shorta and will sign for Erbil but will only play AFC Cup games for the Northern side.
Rumours swirled around in November of Nashat's departure, and Nashat confirmed that he was released in November, coming out with this statement (translated into English): "When I signed for the club for the fans, I felt there was real professionalism within the club and it was our goal to win the AFC Cup, but when club president Ayad Bunyan [Nashat's father-in-law] was ousted from the club, I reluctantly decided to leave the club because I refuse to work with people who are failures."
Nashat was referring to the new president and vice-president, Riyadh Abdul-Abbas and Mahdi Shuai respectively, who have replaced Ayad Bunyan and Adnan Jafar, two men who have done great things for the club and brought them great success over the last few years.
Nashat also confirmed that he has signed a contract with Al Shorta's rivals Erbil, but will only play AFC Cup games for them as winning that competition is a personal goal of his. Furthermore, Nashat thanked Al Shorta's fans for their great support of him during his time at Al Shorta and for understanding the reasons for his departure.
Amjad Kalaf has been named as Al Shorta's new captain, whilst Hussein Abdul Wahid is the vice-captain.
Former Al Shorta captain Riyadh Abdul-Abbas has taken over as Al Shorta's new president following the club's presidential elections.
Riyadh, a midfielder during his playing days, earned 289 votes in the elections to become the president, and will replace former president Ayad Bunyan who was ousted from the club a few months prior.
Many fans have been left disappointed and furious at the departure of Ayad Bunyan, who completely revolutionised the club and helped turn them from a relegation-battler to a title winner in just two years. However, all fans will now be hoping that the new era under Riyadh will be just as successful.
Mahdi Shuai is the new vice-president of the club, earning 160 votes in the elections, whilst Ali Abdul-Zahra (230 votes), Adnan Akbar Ali (213), Khalid Abdul Nabi (204), Ghazi Faisal (196) and Faiz Abdul Hassan (176) are all now members of the board, and Adara Abdul Amir Ali (128) is the female member of the board.
Thank you to Ayad Bunyan for everything you have done with the club and we will never forget what you have done for Al Shorta.
Young Iraqi star Sherko Kareem has completed his move from Al Shorta to Swiss club Grasshopper Zürich, signing a two-year contract with the club.
Sherko Kareem has been dubbed as the new 'Iraqi Cristiano Ronaldo' by many following brilliant performances for Iraq's youth team and for the Iraqi Premier League champions Al Shorta, and we wish him the best at Grasshoppers.
Grasshopper Zürich are one of Switzerland's biggest clubs, finishing in second place in the Swiss Super League in the 2013-14 season and almost qualified to the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League. Sherko will start off playing in the reserves, and will hopefully make his way up into the first team in the coming years.
Sherko scored three goals at Al Shorta, one in the 2011-12 season and two in the 2013-14 season.
Al Shorta will play their home games in the AFC Cup at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Qatar, because the AFC have deemed Iraq too unsafe to hold AFC Cup games.
This will be the second year in a row in which Al Shorta will have to play in Qatar, as they played in the Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium during the 2014 AFC Cup.
Al Shorta will play Al Jazeera of Jordan, Taraji Wadi Al Nes of Palestine and another team to be confirmed in the group stages of the 2015 edition.
Al Shorta's left-back Dhirgham Ismail made the Asian Cup dream team as Iraq achieved their second best ever finish in the tournament - fourth place.
Three Al Shorta players scored in the tournament: Dhirgham scored a penalty in the quarter-final against Iran in one of the tournament's greatest ever games, whilst Waleed Salem and Amjad Kalaf scored Iraq's two goals in the third-place playoff defeat to the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, four of Iraq's seven successful penalties in the 7-6 shootout win over Iran were scored by Al Shorta players Waleed Salem, Dhirgham Ismail, Marwan Hussein and Salam Shakir (scorer of the winning penalty).
Nine Al Shorta players were part of the Iraq squad in total: Mohammed Hameed, Waleed Salem, Dhirgham Ismail, Salam Shakir, Ali Bahjat, Mahdi Kamil, Amjad Kalaf, Alaa Abdul-Zahra, and Marwan Hussein.
Australia won the tournament - becoming the first country from outside of Asia to win Asia's biggest prize. Iraq famously won the tournament in 2007.
Construction has begun on Al Shorta's new stadium, and an official video has been released by AKG Engineering displaying plans of what Al Shorta Sports City will look like when it is completed.
The main part of the sports city, the stadium, consists of four stands, with the main stand being covered by a roof. The seats of the stadium are purple and green, a testament to the great Aliyat Al Shorta team of the 1960s and 1970s, and the main stand contains some white seats that spell out the words 'Police Club' alongside the club's Arabic name.
The stadium will have a capacity of 10,000 and players will train on the training field that is adjacent to the stadium. Also at the sports city will be an indoor swimming pool with 1,500 seats, a multi-purpose closed hall with 2,500 seats, a full-quality relaxation club (with sports facilities), restaurants, theatres, meeting areas and a shopping centre among other things.
More virtual images of the stadium and other buildings and facilities in the sports city are shown in the video, which can be seen here.
A gallery of images showing both plans of the sports city and the stadium being constructed can be seen here.
Al Shorta will play six friendlies during the Iraqi League break.
The Iraqi League is on a break due to the Asian Cup, which nine Al Shorta players are participating in. These are the friendlies:
08/01/2015: Al Masafi (away)
15/01/2015: Naft Al Junoob (home)
19/01/2015: Al Karkh (away)
21/01/2015: Al Jaish (home)
27/01/2015: Al Masafi (away)
29/01/2015: Al Kahrabaa (away)
A total of nine Al Shorta players have been called up for Iraq's 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad, setting a new record for the highest number of 'Al Qeetharah' players to be called up for a major competition.
This number was expected to be ten, but Mahdi Kareem was surprisingly dropped from the squad with Baghdad S.C.'s young full-back Sameh Saeed being included.
The tournament, which Iraq famously won in 2007, is being held outside of the continent of Asia for the first time in its history, in Australia.
Ten Al Shorta players were called up for Iraq's friendly with Kuwait and seven of them started the game, with both of these figures setting new records.
The previous record for number of Al Shorta players called up for a matchday squad was eight which was set in 1968 and equalled in 2013 and 2014. However, the record has been broken with Mohammed Hameed, Salam Shakir, Ali Bahjat, Waleed Salem, Dhirgham Ismail, Mahdi Kareem, Amjad Kalaf, Mahdi Kamil, Alaa Abdul-Zahra and Marwan Husain all being called up for the Kuwait game that ended 1-1.
Another record was set when seven Al Shorta players started the game (the most in history), and the entire back-four was made up of Al Shorta players. These seven players were made up of the four defenders (Ali Bahjat, Salam Shakir, Dhirgham Ismail and Mahdi Kareem) and three attacking players (Amjad Kalaf, Alaa Abdul-Zahra and Marwan Husain). Also, Al Shorta's full-back Waleed Salem was subbed on on 46 minutes, making it eight Al Shorta players who participated in the game.
These records show just how far the club has got since they avoided relegation on goal difference in 2011, with much of the club's revolution thanks to club president Ayad Bunyan.
Al Shorta will play Al Jazeera of Jordan, Taraji Wadi Al Nes of Palestine and the winner of Play-Off 2 (West) in the 2015 AFC Cup.
Most pundits believe Al Shorta have been given a kind draw, especially when compared with their draw for last year's competition in which they played the eventual winners of the competition Al Qadsia. Al Jazeera, the 2013-14 Jordan League third place team, have never played in the AFC Cup before and only qualified for the tournament as the Jordan League's runners-up Al Faisaly could not compete in the tournament. Taraji Wadi Al Nes are also making their debut in the competition having won the Palestinian league last season. The other team in Al Shorta's group could be one of three teams: Al Hidd of Bahrain (who Al Shorta drew 0-0 with twice in last season's competition), Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan and Al Saqr of Yemen.
The other Iraqi team in the competition, Erbil, are in Group C where they could face the team who defeated them in the 2014 final, Al Qadsia. Erbil have become accustomed to being runners-up, losing both the finals of the 2012 and 2014 AFC Cup and finishing in second place behind Al Shorta in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Iraqi Leagues, but both Iraqi teams will be hoping that they can win the competition and become the first Iraqi team to win an AFC competition.
Al Sulaimaniya have withdrawn from the 2014-15 Iraqi League, meaning that they have been relegated and will play in the Iraqi Division 1 next season.
Their withdrawal is a protest against the fact that Al Naft were awarded a 3-0 victory against them and Al Sulaimaniya are angry with the punishments that they received from the Iraqi Football Association.
This leaves Group 2 of the league with nine participating teams, and none of these nine teams can be relegated as Al Sulaimaniya have automatically finished bottom of the group. All matches that Al Sulaimaniya have played so far in the league this season have been discounted, meaning that Al Shorta are now in third place in Group 2 having played just four games.
Al Shorta will not participate in the 2015 AFC Champions League qualifiers and will instead play in the AFC Cup group stage.
None of Iraq's teams have passed the club licensing requirements for the 2015 AFC Champions League so Iraq have been given two special slots for the AFC Cup, which will be filled by Iraqi League champions Al Shorta and runners-up Erbil.
Both clubs played in last year's edition of the competition, with Erbil reaching the final and Al Shorta failing to advance past the group stage.
The Baghdad derby between Al Shorta and Al Talaba will be played on 25/10/2014 at 12:00 GMT at Al Shaab Stadium.
Al Shorta have played Al Talaba four times over the past two seasons (in which they won the league in both seasons), winning three out of four of these games. They drew 1-1 in the first game of the 2012-13 season before cruising to a memorable 3-0 win of the final day of that season to secure the league title. The 2013-14 season saw 2-1 and 1-0 wins for the Police and they ended up winning that title too.
For the time being, Al Shorta will play their other home games at Baghdad S.C. Stadium.
Al Shorta will kick off their 2014-15 Iraqi League season against Al Najaf at Baghdad S.C. Stadium.
Al Shorta's temporary home ground, Al Shaab Stadium, is currently not in a good enough state to host games, so Baghdad S.C. have kindly allowed Al Shorta to use their stadium for home games until Al Shaab Stadium is ready for use.
Al Shorta have won the league in both of the past two seasons, defeating Al Najaf twice and drawing with them twice during that period. In the 2012-13 season, Al Shorta won the first game between the sides 2-0 with Muslem Mubarak and Amjad Kalaf getting the goals before Al Shorta managed a 1-1 draw with Al Najaf in the away fixture thanks to Nashat Akram's equalising penalty. The 2013-14 season saw the first game between the two teams at Al Najaf's stadium finished goalless before a free-kick from Mahdi Kareem in the second minute of the second game won Al Shorta the match at Al Shaab Stadium 1-0.
Digging the foundations for Al Shorta Sports City is set to begin after a few months of delays.
The construction of the stadium has taken longer than expected to begin, but Al Shorta fans will be hoping that now it has, it will be over by the end of the season and the much-awaited stadium will be ready for use.
For more details about Al Shorta Sports City, click here.
Al Shorta have signed an official deal with kit manufacturing company Nike to become the first Iraqi team in history to have an official kit supplier.
The new home and away kits for the club in the 2014-15 season, made by Nike, have already been released. The home kit features a similar style to the kit Nike have made for Scottish club Celtic, featuring colours such as green, yellow and grey in an interesting design. The white away shirt features red and green stars on the front which certainly makes it an eye-catching strip. Below is an image of the two kits, which are currently on sale in Duhok (Iraq) and in a Nike store in Dubai (U.A.E.).
Al Shorta have scheduled three more friendlies against Iraqi clubs to prepare for the new league season.
The first of those is against Karbalaa on 24/09/2014. Six days later at 13:00 GMT Al Shorta will face Al Jaish for the second time this pre-season and on 11/10/2014 Al Shorta will play Al Kahrabaa at 12:30 GMT. All three of these matches will be played at Al Shorta's training ground next to the now-demolished Al Shorta Stadium.
Al Shorta's scheduled league opener with Al Minaa on the final day of the month has been postponed due to eight of Al Shorta's players being involved in the Asian Games in Incheon.
The eight players from the league champions representing Iraq in the tournament are Mohammed Hameed, Salam Shakir, Ali Bahjat, Dhirgham Ismail, Mahdi Kareem, Mahdi Kamil, Amjad Kalaf and Marwan Husain.
Al Shorta will not be able to play an Iraqi League game until mid-October due to the Iraq national team also playing friendlies with Yemen and Bahrain after the Asian Games.
Al Shorta have rejected a bid from Al Talaba to sign 19 year-old Iraq international Mahdi Kamil on a season-long loan.
Al Talaba's manager Abdul-Wahab Abu Al-Hail, after returning from a camp in Egypt, decided to make the offer for the talented youngster but it was swiftly rejected by the Iraqi League champions Al Shorta who do not want to let go of such a valuable player this late in the transfer window.
Iraq have called up eight Al Shorta players for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, with six of them starting the opening game against Nepal.
These six players were Mohammed Hameed (goalkeeper), Salam Shakir (defender), Ali Bahjat (defender), Dhirgham Ismail (defender), Mahdi Kamil (midfielder) and Amjad Kalaf (forward), with the latter being the star performer for the Iraqi team as they stormed to a 4-0 victory over their Group D opponents. Ali Bahjat scored the fourth and final goal with a screamer from 30 yards out.
Midfielder Mahdi Kareem and striker Marwan Husain have also been called up for the squad but missed the Nepal game and will travel to Incheon soon.
Iraq will face Japan and Kuwait in their remaining Group D games in the tournament.
In other news, Al Shorta will return from their camp in Egypt on Thursday, 18/09/2014.
Al Shorta have made two surprise signings ahead of the end of the transfer window, snapping up both defender Salam Shakir and forward Alaa Abdul-Zahra.
28-year old Salam Shakir had been training at the club for the past few weeks in order to keep his fitness levels high, but after rejecting a move back to Qatar, Al Shorta decided to sign the free agent. Having played for the Iraq national team 70 times, Salam brings experience and quality to Al Shorta's defence and has been one of Iraq's most consistent players over the past six years. Salam had previously been playing at Al Khor in Qatar.
Alaa Abdul-Zahra, 26, nicknamed the Iraqi Kaka, has been capped 62 times by the Iraq national team, scoring seventeen goals. He moved from Duhok to Iranian club Tractor Sazi but after a short spell there he left after saying that the club had not respected the terms of his contract. Almost immediately after becoming a free agent, Al Shorta recognised that they could sign him on a free as he was a free agent and swiftly managed to bring him into the team. Generally recognised as one of Iraq's best forwards, Alaa is another great addition to an already title-winning squad.
These two signings are both brilliant and will give manager Mohamed Youssef even more options when selecting his team for the Al Minaa game on the final day of the month.
The Iraqi Football Association (IFA) have slightly changed the rules for the upcoming Iraqi League season.
Now, four teams from Group 1 and four teams from Group 2 will advance to the final stage, rather than three from each group. Furthermore, each of the eight teams now in the final stage will play each other twice (home and away) rather than only once.
This means that overall there will be 32 rounds of the league, eighteen for the first stage and fourteen for the final stage.
Cameroonian defender Innocent Awoa has signed a new contract with the Iraqi Premier League champions Al Shorta.
Innocent Awoa had refused to sign a new contract at the end of the season after his contract ran out, but after experimenting with a number of other African players, Mohamed Youssef decided that none of them were good enough and requested for Innocent Awoa to return and sign a new contract, which he duly did.
Innocent Awoa has been part of two title-winning Al Shorta squads (in 2012-13 and 2013-14) and will be hoping that he can win the title for the third time in the 2014-15 season.
Al Shorta's four foreign players this season are Awoa, Syrian defender Hamdy Al-Massri, Cameroonian midfielder Makadji Boukar and Brazilian striker Caion.
The draw for the first stage of the Iraqi League has been made, with the champions Al Shorta in Group 2.
This season sees a change from the previous three seasons (which were all in round-robin format). The first stage of the league consists of two groups of ten teams. These two groups are listed below.
Group 1: Erbil, Al Zawraa, Al Quwa Al Jawiya, Al Kahrabaa, Zakho, Al Karkh, Al Masafi, Naft Al Junoob, Naft Al Wasat, Karbalaa
Group 2: Al Shorta, Al Talaba, Al Najaf, Duhok, Naft Misan, Al Minaa, Al Sulaimaniya, Al Hudod, Al Naft, Baghdad S.C.
Each team will play the other teams in their group twice (home and away) with the top three teams from each group advancing to the final stage and the bottom team from each group being relegated.
The final stage is a group containing the six qualified teams with each team playing each other once and all matches being at Al Shaab Stadium in Baghdad. The team who collects the most points in the group is the champion of the league.
Al Shorta, the winners of both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 league seasons, face Al Minaa in their season opener on 30/09/2014 at Al Shaab Stadium. The rest of Al Shorta's fixtures for the first stage of the season can be seen here.
Al Shorta will play five friendlies on their training camp in Egypt's capital city Cairo.
The first of them will be against Al Khaleej, a second tier Emirati team, on 31/08/2014. After that, Al Shorta will play Egyptian second tier club El Entag El Harby at 15:55 GMT on 04/09/2014, followed by a game with Egyptian Premier League side Al Gounah four days later. On 11/09/2014, the Iraqi champions will face another second tier Egyptian team, this time Telephonat Bani Swaif, before ending the camp with a friendly against Egyptian Premier League side El Dakhleyah five days later.
Iraqi Division 1 side Al Jaish will play Iraqi Premier League champions Al Shorta at Al Shorta Stadium on 27/08/2014 in a friendly match.
The game will take place at 14:30 GMT. It will be Al Shorta's first pre-season friendly of the 2014-15 season, with the club set to start a training camp in Egypt's capital city a day later where they will play some more friendly games against Egyptian clubs.
Al Jaish almost qualified for the 2014-15 Iraqi Premier League, but fell six points short of qualification in the end. In contrast, Al Shorta won their second Iraqi League title in a row last campaign, finishing a point ahead of closest rivals Erbil.
In other news, Al Shorta have announced that Nashat Akram is the new captain of the club, taking the captain's armband from Hussein Abdul Wahid who skippered the club to their fourth league title last season.
Al Shorta have released new signing Fausto Lúcio after their Egyptian manager Mohamed Youssef said that he was not impressed with his level of performance in training and requested his departure.
The Portuguese defender, formerly of European giants Benfica, signed a contract with the Iraqi champions earlier this month but has had his contract terminated due to the above reason and Youssef has promised supporters that he will sign another foreign defender to replace him.
Mohamed Youssef has already forced one of Al Shorta's expected deals to fall through when he said that Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi was not good enough for the club but, having replaced Omotoyossi with Brazilian forward Caion, he made the necessary signing that supporters hope he will make this time around too.
Al Shorta have signed an official sponsorship deal with Swedish company Royal Arena Sport.
The deal means that the company's logo will feature on all official Al Shorta merchandise for the next few years including kits for the club's football and basketball teams.
During the press conference, Al Shorta's president Ayad Bunyan also stated the club hope to launch a satellite channel dedicated to the club in the near future. He also mentioned that the expected date of the completion Al Shorta Sports City, Al Shorta's new stadium that is currently in construction, has been slightly delayed and it should be completed by February 2015 at the latest, if everything goes to plan.
Royal Arena Sport are a branch of the Swedish company Nordic Sport, who are the company that are currently building Al Shorta Sports City.
This deal marks a new era for the club and strengthens the opinions of many Iraqi football fans that Al Shorta are the biggest club in Iraq.
This is the logo that will appear on Al Shorta's kits. It featured on Al Shorta's kits last season but this was only due to a temporary deal; now the deal is permanent and it is worth over a million dollars for the club.
The format of Iraq's top division, the Iraqi Premier League, has changed once again from a round-robin format to a group stage format.
After last season had to be ended early to due security conditions and travel issues around the country, the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) have decided that a fewer number of games should be played in order to protect the players and staff of each club. Thus, they have come up with a new group stage format for the league.
The league contains twenty teams (the sixteen teams that competed in the 2013-14 season alongside the four promoted teams who are Naft Al Wasat, Al Sulaimaniya, Al Kahrabaa and Al Hudod). These twenty teams will be split into two groups, each containing ten sides. These groups will not be decided by geographical location like in some past seasons, but by what positions the teams were in the 2013-14 season's standings before the league was ended as this will make the groups more equal. Al Shorta (winners of the 2013-14 Iraqi League) will be in Group A and Erbil (runners-up of the 2013-14 Iraqi League) will be in Group B, but that is all that is known about which teams are in which groups at this stage. Each team will play the other teams in their group twice (home and away) in a round-robin format. The two teams that finish bottom of their group will be relegated, with two teams being promoted for the 2015-16 season to keep the number of teams in the league at twenty. The top three teams from each group will advance to the final round.
This round will consist of one group containing these six teams, and each team will play each other once with all matches being played in Baghdad's Al Shaab Stadium. The team that collects the most points from their five matches in this round is crowned champion of the league.
The season is expected to start on 01/10/2014 and end on 01/06/2015 at the latest. The league will be stopped during Iraq's campaign in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup as well as whenever Al Shorta or Erbil play a game in an AFC competition. Al Shorta are the reigning champions of the league having won their fourth title last season.
There have been 40 editions of the Iraqi League, and only eight of them were played in a group stage format, with the 2014-15 season set to become the ninth.
Legendary midfielder Nashat Akram has re-signed for Al Shorta after an unsuccessful spell at Chinese club Dalian Aerbin.
'The Maestro', as he is affectionately called by Al Shorta's supporters, starts his third spell with the club after starting his senior career with Al Shorta in 2000 and captaining them to the league title in 2013. He has scored twenty goals in total for the club and will be hoping to add to that tally in the 2014-15 season.
He returns after a short spell in China playing for Dalian Aerbin. He played three games for them before an injury kept him out for a long period of time and after disputes over his contract, he was released by the club and has signed for Al Shorta where he says he feels at home.
Nashat is an Al Shorta legend and it is brilliant news for all those associated with the club that he has decided to return to the side.
Nashat Akram signing the contract alongside the club's vice-president Adnan Jafar
Al Shorta will go on a training camp in Egypt, starting on 28/08/2014.
Al Shorta's manager, Mohamed Youssef, is Egyptian himself and has said that he will be looking to arrange a number of friendly matches with Egyptian clubs during their time in the country.
The camp was originally set to start on the 21st of the month but it had to be postponed due to travel issues.
Cameroonian midfielder Makadji Boukar and Brazilian striker Herlison Caion de Sousa Ferreira (simply known as Caion) have both signed for Al Shorta.
Makadji brings experience to the side at the age of 30, having played in the Iraqi League for Baghdad side Al Quwa Al Jawiya for the past two years as well as playing for clubs in Cameroon, Oman, Hungary and Malaysia earlier in his career. Boasting one cap for the Cameroon national side, he is set to be great addition to the league's strongest squad.
It was expected that Al Shorta would sign Egyptian forward Ahmed Abdelzaher on loan from Al Ahly but after negotiations with his side failed, Al Shorta turned their attentions to Brazilian striker Caion and swiftly snapped up the free agent. Caion has spent the majority of his career playing in Brazil but did have a short spell with Gangwon F.C. of South Korea from 2009 to 2010. The forward has played for some well-known clubs in Brazil such as Náutico, Chapecoense and Portuguesa and at the young age of 23, he can still improve greatly and is an exciting addition to Al Shorta's squad. Fans will be hoping that he turns out to be better than their last Brazilian striker, Cristiano, who only managed to net two goals for the club in his time there last season.
These two foreigners as well as Syrian defender Hamdy Al-Massri and Portuguese defender Fausto Lúcio complete Al Shorta's list of four foreign players, the highest number that the Iraqi Football Association have allowed clubs to have.
Herlison Caion de Sousa Ferreira
Iraq international goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed and fellow international forward Amjad Kalaf have officially renewed their contracts with Al Shorta.
The news does not come as a surprise with rumours earlier in the month suggesting that neither player wanted to leave the club.
Young Iraqi forward Sherko Kareem and Iraq international full-back Dhirgham Ismail have both renewed their contracts with Iraqi League champions Al Shorta.
Sherko Kareem has been at Al Shorta for almost three years, scoring his second and third goals for the club last season against Al Quwa Al Jawiya and Baghdad S.C. respectively and it is great news for the club that he is staying as he is a great prospect for the future with some labelling him as the 'Iraqi Cristiano Ronaldo'.
Dhirgham Ismail joined Al Shorta from Naft Misan in 2010, scoring thirteen goals for the club so far and earning himself multiple call-ups to the Iraq national side. At just 20 years old, he has flourished in Al Shorta colours and the fan favourite will have delighted many supporters by signing a new contract.
Al Shorta have completed the deal to snap up free agent Fausto Lúcio, a 29-year old Portuguese centre-back.
Fausto, who can also play as a defensive-midfielder, played for European giants Benfica at youth level before a series of stints at Portuguese and Cypriot lower-level clubs and, after playing two trial games with English side Bradford City in 2007, he joined them on a month-long loan deal that year. He brings experience to a solid defence at the club and supporters will be hoping that he will be a good replacement for Cameroonian Innocent Awoa who was released by the club last month.
Al Shorta have also announced that they have a new Brazilian physiotherapist, Tonello Marilia, who becomes the club's third Brazilian training staff member.
Tonello Marilia, Al Shorta's new physiotherapist
Al Shorta have announced the signing of Iraqi goalkeeper Saif Jameel from Al Najaf.
Saif, formerly of Iraqi Division 1 side Al Diwaniya, has been Al Najaf's number 1 for almost three years, putting in some top class performances during his time there. He becomes the club's fourth goalkeeper. He will be fighting for the number 1 spot at the champions alongside Mohammed Gassid, Mohammed Hameed and Ahmed Basil.
Goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed and forward Amjad Kalaf are set to renew their contracts at the club with both players telling journalists that they will not leave the champions.
21 year-old shot-stopper Mohammed Hameed has been at the club for three years, establishing himself as the first-choice 'keeper for the 2012-13 season before playing second fiddle to Mohammed Gassid in the last campaign.
Amjad Kalaf, 22, extends his love-affair with the club having been at the Police for seven years, scoring 51 goals, becoming the club's youngest captain in their history and earning himself a legendary status among supporters despite being so young. The Iraq international almost single-handedly saved the club from relegation in 2011 as captain before being the club's top scorer during their championship-winning 2012-13 season and playing a key role as vice-captain in the 2013-14 campaign when the club won the league again.
In other news, Naft Al Wasat have been promoted to the Iraqi Premier League, with three other clubs from the Iraqi Division 1 set to follow them in the next few days. Former Al Shorta players Ali Husain and Mohammed Hannon Mashkoor both play for Naft Al Wasat, who will be hoping that they can avoid relegation back to the Iraqi Division 1 in the 2014-15 season.
Young Iraqi goalkeeper Ahmed Basil has signed for Al Shorta from Iraqi Division 1 club Science and Technology.
He is tipped to become a great goalkeeper in the future and is one of many exciting young shot-stoppers at the club and he is a great addition to the squad.
Other goalkeepers at the club include Iraq internationals Mohammed Hameed and Mohammed Gassid.
Cameroonian midfielder Makadji Boukar and Egyptian forward Ahmed Abdelzaher are close to signing for Iraqi League champions Al Shorta.
30 year-old midfielder Makadji Boukar has been at Al Quwa Al Jawiya since 2012, becoming one of their most important players. Many Al Shorta fans have not forgotten his brilliant performance against Al Shorta for Al Quwa Al Jawiya in 2013 when the Falcons beat the Harps 4-0, and he has racked up five goals in his time at Jawiya. Boasting experience in Cameroon, Oman, Hungary and Malaysia as well as earning himself one cap for the Cameroon national team, Al Shorta fans are excited at the prospect of his arrival at the club and supporters will hope that the deal is completed soon.
Egypt international Ahmed Abdelzaher, currently of Egyptian club Al Ahly, has played for three different Egyptian clubs and enjoyed a loan spell in Libya playing for Al Ittihad (Tripoli). It is believed that Al Shorta's new Egyptian manager Mohamed Youssef, who previously managed Al Ahly, has recommended the loan signing of Ahmed after refusing to sign Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi and Al Shorta supporters will hope that, if the loan deal is completed, he will be a great goalscoring forward for the club.
22-year old Iraqi centre-midfielder Ahmed Fadhel Mohammed Al-Nuaimi has joined Baghdad S.C., who finished third in the 2013-14 Iraqi League, on a season-long loan deal.
Ahmed has been at Al Shorta for his entire career wearing the number 35 shirt, coming through the youth ranks and making his way into the first team soon after. He made his first appearance for the club in 2008, showcasing his talent to the whole of Iraq and attracting interest from other clubs in the country. Ahmed scored his first goal for the club (out of six in total) in 2010 in a 5-2 win over Karbalaa with a cracking long-range strike and continued to be a key part of the team at such a young age. He helped the club avoid relegation in the 2010-11 season before playing a key role in their championship-winning 2012-13 season and cementing his status as a fan favourite, rejecting many offers from other clubs along the way so that he could stay at the Police.
However, the 2013-14 season was different for Ahmed as he struggled to secure a first team spot and had a fall-out with the management staff during an AFC Cup game. Although he maintains his love for the club, he feels that it is time for a different challenge at Baghdad S.C. where he will be able to play every game and with Al Shorta having already recruited Iraq international midfielder Muthanna Khalid, they allowed Baghdad S.C. to sign him on a season-long loan.
Iraq international midfielder Muthanna Khalid has joined Al Shorta after playing to the end of his contract at title rivals Erbil.
The 25-year old, who is competent in the defensive-midfield and central-midfield positions, spent six successful years at Al Quwa Al Jawiya between 2007 and 2013 before joining Northern side Erbil and playing for them for a year. After his contract at the Yellow Castle ran out, he expressed his desire to play for the Iraqi League champions Al Shorta, whom he almost joined in 2011, and club president Ayad Bunyan must have seen this as the perfect time to snap him up.
Rumours are circulating that midfielder Ahmed Fadhel is set to join Baghdad S.C. and the signing of Muthanna is just a replacement signing for him, but we will have to wait and see if this is true or not.
Al Shorta's new manager Mohamed Youssef has decided against signing experienced Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi, saying that he did not think that Razak was good enough to play for the club.
The news comes as a surprise to the majority of Al Shorta supporters as the Nigerian-born forward was set to sign a contract with the Iraqi champions.
He has played for clubs in countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Moldova, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, France, Egypt and Turkey and would have brought a lot of experience to the side. He also went on trial with English club Blackpool in 2010 with Blackpool's manager at the time, Ian Holloway, saying "Blimey, he looks something" after seeing him play in a friendly against Crewe Alexandra.
However, Mohamed Youssef says that he is looking for another striker that would be a much better asset to the club and if he does manage to find one, hopefully he will be a great signing.
Mohamed Youssef (pictured on the left) has had his first press conference as manager of 2013-14 Iraqi League champions Al Shorta.
The Egyptian has signed a contract until the end of the 2014-15 season worth 350,000 dollars in total. It was announced that Al Shorta's youth team manager Karim Nafea (of Iraqi nationality) would be his assistant at the club, whilst fitness coaches Walid Juma and Anderson Nicolau as well as goalkeeping coach Marquinhos Domingues would all remain at the club.
Mohamed Youssef will meet his players for the first time on 07/08/2014 and a training camp held mostly in Egypt will begin on 16/08/2014 and will last for between ten and twelve days.
Mohamed explained that he rejected several other offers from Egyptian clubs to come and work for Iraq's best club and said that his main objectives will be to win the league for the third successive time and to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage.
Karim Nafea, Al Shorta's new assistant manager
Former Al Ahly boss Mohamed Youssef has officially been announced as Iraqi champions Al Shorta's new manager.
A press conference with the Egyptian is set to take place on Thursday. The new boss said, "I will work hard to accomplish unprecedented achievements [with the club]". He has also revealed his intentions of going on a pre-season camp to Egypt as preparation for the 2014-15 campaign.
The Egyptian takes over from Brazilian Lorival Santos who led the club to the league title in his only season. Mohamed will be aiming to become the third foreign manager in history to win the Iraqi League and will also be hoping his new side will manage to qualify for the 2015 AFC Champions League.
Egyptian manager Mohamed Youssef is set to travel to Baghdad to finalise a deal to become Iraqi League champions Al Shorta's new manager following Lorival Santos' departure.
If the deal is completed, Mohamed will become Al Shorta's third ever foreign manager after Yugoslavian Rajko Menista managed the club in 1982 and Brazilian Lorival Santos coached the club to league glory in the 2013-14 season.
Mohamed Youssef, 43, began his new life as a manager (after a successful playing career) in 2013, taking over as manager of Egyptian club Al Ahly with whom he won six league titles in eight years as a player. He led the club to the 2013 African Champions League and 2013 African Super Cup titles, qualifying for the 2013 FIFA World Club Cup in the process and helped to earn the club a respectable sixth place position in that tournament. However, his club were eliminated from the 2014 African Champions League in the second round of the group stages and he stepped down as their manager on the first day of May in 2014.
He has been quoted as saying that Al Shorta are one of the biggest clubs in the continent, and if he does become the manager of the club, he could help them become an even bigger and greater force in Asia.
Al Shorta are set to announce the signings of Portuguese centre-back Fausto Lúcio and Nigerian-born Beninese striker Razak Omotoyossi, who are both free agents, in the next few days.
Portuguese defender Fausto José Tomás Lúcio, 29, played for European giants Benfica at youth level before a series of spells at Portuguese and Cypriot clubs and also signed for English side Bradford City on loan in 2007. If he joins the club, fans will hope that he will be a good replacement for Innocent Awoa and Kassim Zidan, two defenders that have recently been released from the club. He is also competent in the defensive-midfield position which is great news if the deal is completed.
28-year old Benin international striker Razak Omotoyossi has enjoyed spells at eleven different clubs during his career so far, including clubs from Nigeria, Benin, Moldova, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, France, Egypt and Turkey. The most famous club that the forward has played for is FC Metz, a club currently playing in the top division in France alongside clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille. He has also represented the Benin national football team on 58 occasions, scoring 21 goals for his national team, and has the honour of scoring Benin's first ever goal at a world finals in 2005 to his name.
Al Shorta fans will hope that these signings are completed as they need to sign another striker after releasing Cristiano and another defender after releasing Innocent Awoa and Kassim Zidan.
Cameroonian defender Innocent Awoa, Iraqi defender Kassim Zidan and Iraqi midfielder Qusay Munir have all been released by Al Shorta.
Innocent Félix Awoa Zoa, predominantly a right-back, wore the number 22 shirt at the club and had played for Rio Maior, Dinamo Bucharest, Al Ettehad El Sakandary and Al Gounah before being snapped up by the Harps in September 2012, with the African enjoying a very successful first season for the club in which he scored a vital last-minute goal against Al Sinaah and was part of the historic side that won the Iraqi League and Baghdad Cup double, starting most of the games for the club in that season. But he did not establish himself as a first-team regular the next season under Brazilian coach Lorival Santos, which has led to him refusing to sign a new contract with the club.
Kassim Zidan Hadi has now played for Al Shorta three different times in his career, re-joining the club in February 2013. His last spell was his most successful and he was also part of the side that won the double in the 2012-13 season. The Iraqi defender, who wore the number 6 jersey last season for the club, scored one goal for the club in his first spell and two in his second, totalling three goals in three spells at Al Shorta. He was in and out of the first team in 2012-13 but rarely played the next season, which has effectively led to him leaving the club.
Iraqi legend Qusay Munir Aboodi Al-Hussein, a key part of the amazing Iraq team that won the 2007 AFC Asian Cup in Jakarta, joined the club in September 2013. The defensive midfielder, who can also play in the centre of midfield, was handed his favourite number 24 shirt when he joined and was a regular for Al Shorta last season, starting most games for the club. His season ended on a sour note as he was sent off in his final game for the club against Naft Al Junoob. Qusay has been released by the club and we wish him, as well as Innocent Awoa and Kassim Zidan, all the best in the future.
Al Shorta's Player of the Season for the 2013-14 Iraqi Premier League, Syrian defender Hamdy Al-Massri, has signed a new contract with the club, as have Iraqis Ahmed Ayad and Ammar Abdulhusain.
Rumours are suggesting that Hussein Abdul Wahid, Mohammed Gassid, Mohammed Hameed, Mahdi Kareem, Mahdi Kamil, Ahmed Fadhel and Sherko Kareem are also set to sign new contracts with the champions.
Young midfielder Haider Salem has returned from his loan spell at Al Masafi and signed a new contract with Iraqi League champions Al Shorta.
Haider was on loan at Zakho during the 2012-13 season, scoring one goal, and was on loan at Al Masafi during the last campaign, scoring three goals. He featured many times for both clubs, gaining valuable experience at Iraq's top level, so hopefully the experience that he has gained will mean that he will make a valuable contribution for Al Shorta whenever he is called upon next season.
Iraqi centre-forward Mustafa Kareem Abdullah has left Iraqi League champions Al Shorta and returned to his former club Al Quwa Al Jawiya, their arch rivals.
The 26-year old started his second spell with Al Shorta in September 2013, a matter of weeks after they were crowned the 2012-13 Iraqi League champions, and his signing was proving to be a success, with the Iraq international bagging six goals before a long-term injury kept him out for most of the season. He returned towards the end of the campaign, scoring his seventh goal of the season against Duhok before the league season was ended with Al Shorta being declared as champions.
Add those seven goals to the fourteen that he scored whilst at the club as a youngster in the 2005-06 season and you will find that the experienced forward has scored 21 goals for the club in total.
He returns to Al Quwa Al Jawiya, the club he played for in Al Shorta's championship-winning 2012-13 season. The Iraqi striker is known for regularly switching between rival clubs, having scored two goals for Jawiya against Al Shorta in the 2012-13 season, a goal for Erbil against Al Shorta in the 2006-07 season and a goal for Jawiya against Erbil in the 2012-13 season.
He is one of a surprisingly large number of players who can say that they have played for both Al Shorta and Al Quwa Al Jawiya, including players such as Nashat Akram, Mahdi Kamil, Ahmed Ayad, Qusay Munir, Samer Saeed, Samal Saeed, Ali Husain, Safwan Abdul-Ghani, Ayad Sadir, Wissam Gassid, Waleed Bahar, Nadeem Kareem, Emad Khalaf, Jabir Shakir, Salah Hilal, Ahmed Mohammed, Mohammad Hannon Mashkoor, Ahmed Hannon, Jassim Swadi Fayadh and Waleed Khalid.
Al Shorta will without a doubt miss their top scorer Mustafa Kareem, but will be hoping that their new signing Marwan Husain proves to be just as good or, if not, better than Mustafa and will also be hoping that the club bring in at least one more striker. Al Shorta are still looking for a manager to lead their team in the 2014-15 season which should start in September.
Iraq international defenders Ali Bahjat and Waleed Salem have both renewed their contracts with Al Shorta ahead of the new season.
Other players such as Mustafa Kareem, Ahmed Ayad, Hamdy Al-Massri, Mahdi Kareem, Amjad Kalaf and Mohammed Gassid have also stated their desire to remain at the club for the 2014-15 season.
Al Shorta are still searching for a new manager to lead their team in their Iraqi League and AFC Champions League campaigns, with the club looking to successfully defend their Iraqi League title.
Iraq international striker Marwan Husain has signed for Iraqi League champions Al Shorta from rivals Al Zawraa.
The 23 year-old has been dubbed by many as the new Younis Mahmoud after his exceptional performances for Iraq's under-22 team during the AFC U-22 Championship where he scored four goals. Al Shorta have been in need of a striker ever since the departures of Jean Michel N'Lend, Minusu Buba, Muhaimen Salim, Muslem Mubarak and Hussein Kareem and Marwan Husain should be the perfect signing for the Harps.
Marwan racked up 34 goals for Al Zawraa and struck up a formidable partnership with Al Shorta's Amjad Kalaf in the AFC U-22 Championship a few months ago, making his debut for the Iraq senior team in February against North Korea. This is a very exciting signing for Al Shorta fans who will be hoping that he can replicate the form he showed for Al Zawraa and the Iraqi youth team in an Al Shorta shirt and help them win their third title in a row.
16-year old Iraqi midfielder Akram Jassim has signed his first professional contract with Al Shorta to play in the first-team.
The young star has already played for Iraqi Division 1 clubs Al Kahrabaa and Al Hussein and looks like a very promising player.
Al Shorta have signed Iraqi defender Karrar Muhammed from Al Najaf.
Karrar scored four goals for Al Najaf, including two last season against Zakho and Al Karkh and was arguably Al Najaf's best player in a disappointing season for them.
He is a good addition to a great defence and will help Al Shorta in their attempts to successfully defend their Iraqi League title and qualify for the AFC Champions League.
Al Shorta have released six players after the premature end to the 2013-14 season.
Goalkeeper Nebras Salman, who failed to make an appearance for the club last season, has been released alongside other 'keeper Amjed Salem. Youngster Ahmed Hassan (defender) has also been released, as has midfielder Husain Abdullah, who was on loan at Al Zawraa last season and scored two goals for Al Shorta in his career.
Nebras Salman Habeeb Al Jorani
Hamdy Al-Massri has been voted as Al Shorta's Player of the Season in the 2013-14 Iraqi Premier League by Al Shorta's fans, with Ahmed Ayad finishing in second and the experienced Mahdi Kareem coming in third.
"The Bulldozer", as Hamdy is known by the Al Shorta supporters, was a rock in defence for the reigning champions, scoring two goals for the club including a stunning goal of the season contender in the 2-2 draw with Al Karkh and was a huge factor in Al Shorta's title-winning season. The Syrian, formerly of Al Naft, provided solidity to a defence of huge quality, helping the club to keep eleven clean sheets in 21 league games.
Second-placed full-back Ahmed Ayad scored his second and third goals for the club this season. His first goal of the season against Al Talaba was magnificent as he weaved his way past a number of opposing defenders before coolly finishing past the 'keeper, while he also scored another great goal against Zakho in Al Shorta's final win of their successful season, curling the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot from outside the penalty area.
Mahdi Kareem received the third most votes for the award; the right-back scoring three goals this season; two of them being penalties (against Erbil and Al Wahda) and one being a free-kick against Al Najaf. He was an ever-present part of the team this season with his great performances earning him a re-call to the Iraq national team.
Brazilian manager Lorival Santos and Brazilian striker Cristiano da Silva Santos have both been released by the club after the premature end to the 2013-14 season.
Al Shorta fans had a mixed view on Santos despite him leading the club to their second league title in a row, with many of them unimpressed with his tactics whilst others were happy with the club's form in the league having defeated the likes of Al Zawraa, Duhok, Erbil, Al Talaba (twice), Al Quwa Al Jawiya and Baghdad S.C.
Lorival Santos said about his decision to leave the club, "I am very happy to have won the Iraqi League. I made many friends in Iraq, particularly with the president Ayad Bunyan, but I feel it is time to go back and work in Brazil. I am happy to be returning to my country and to be able to be with my family. I have spent more than eight months as Al Shorta manager but have decided not to renew my contract with the team. In Iraq, the conflicts of war have greatly increased and that was one of the reasons why I have decided not to renew my contract. In Brazil, I will study my options and see what happens."
Lorival Santos will have great memories of his time in Iraq, receiving the Certificate of Merit for becoming the first manager in the history of Iraqi football and the history of Al Shorta to win all five 'classic' matches in a row, defeating Al Zawraa 1-0, Duhok 5-0, Erbil 2-1, Al Talaba 2-1 and Al Quwa Al Jawiya 1-0, even going on to defeat Al Talaba again 1-0 before the streak was ended with a 2-2 draw at Duhok. He was also nominated for the Manager of the Year Award in the Iraqi League and became only the second foreign manager in the history of the Iraqi League to win the title.
The fans' view on Cristiano was not so widely spread with most supporters not being happy with his performances; the striker scored only two goals for the club all season.
Al Shorta will now be looking for a new manager with rumours suggesting that they are looking for an Iraqi manager such as Radhi Shneashel or Ayoub Odisho rather than a foreigner. Also, there are rumours that Al Shorta are looking to sign midfield goalscorers Khodor Salame from Naft Misan and Ali Husni from Al Minaa.
Cristiano da Silva Santos
The Iraqi Football Association (IFA) has decided to end (rather than cancel) the 2013-14 Iraqi Premier League, declaring that the league table on 18/06/2014 will be used as the final league table, meaning that Al Shorta have won the league for the second season in a row and the fourth time in their history.
The decision comes after a long meeting between IFA members. Reasons for the premature end to the season include the unrest in the country as well as the difficulty of travelling between provinces and the fact that Ramadan is approaching and few stadiums have floodlights meaning games cannot be played at night.
There will be no relegated teams this season and four teams will be promoted from the Iraqi Division 1, setting up a 20-team league for the 2014-15 season that will begin in September.
The decision has been judged to have been the correct one by many Iraqi fans and the news was greeted with celebration from the Al Shorta supporters.
Manager Lorival Santos, who becomes only the second foreign manager to ever win the Iraqi League, said after the news, "The battle was hard and it was an arduous journey in search for the title. But in the end everything has gone well and we have won the Iraqi Premier League title. This is no doubt a very important achievement in my career - it is very valuable."
Assistant manager/fitness coach and fellow Brazilian Anderson Nicolau stated, "I am very happy. We can now see that when you work seriously, the result follows. The title has crowned everything we did during this season."
Al Shorta accumulated 43 points from 21 games during the season, racking up twelve wins accompanied by seven draws and two losses, most recently to Naft Al Junoob. They will play in the 2015 AFC Champions League qualifiers, whilst runners-up Erbil, who finished one point behind "Al Qeetharah", have qualified for the 2015 AFC Cup. Baghdad S.C. finish the season in third, with Al Quwa Al Jawiya finishing in fourth, three points behind them.
This is the final league table for the 2013-14 season:
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