By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/12/2004 6:11:53 PM ET 2004-08-12T22:11:53

Hassan Turkey knows about playing to win. As a midfielder on the Iraqi soccer team, he knew if he didn't perform on the field, it might cost him his life.

"I don't want to remember the things that have happened to me. It was very bad," says Turkey.

All because of Saddam Hussein's son, Uday. Crippled in an assassination attempt, he took out his rage and got perverse pleasure in punishing elite athletes. Turkey once missed a goal in a key match.

"I missed a penalty kick and they shaved my head and put me in jail for ten days," he says.

Last year, when war broke out, the team believed their playing days were over and went home.

But their coach, Bernd Stange -- for some a father figure -- went looking for them, begging them to play again.

"We had no water for a shower. We had no physical therapy, absolutely nothing. I brought the soccer balls from Germany," says Stange.

But what Hassan Turkey and his teammates did have was a new, winning attitude.

"We don't have the same pressure," says Turkey.

Turkey's family followed the team, as it shot through the world soccer ranks, scoring an upset over Saudi Arabia to earn an Olympic slot.

"The games in Athens," Turkey's father says, "are the only way for Iraqis to forget about their tragedy."

They were the only team given a military airlift out of their country. The team which once played in fear is facing a different kind of pressure -- to keep the dream going for their countrymen.

Still, someone is missing -- Bernd Stange. He left Baghdad, fearing for his life, and is no longer the coach.

Thursday, they played for their old coach and country. The odds were against them. Portugal was heavily favored, but Iraq, the team once tortured and broken by war, pushed the dream forward again.

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