Air Force club coach Basim Qasim dedicated his side's AFC Cup 2016 triumph to Iraqi citizens on Saturday.
While civilians were reportedly being killed by bomb attack in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which is facing a crisis situation as the battle between government-led forces and Islamic State (IS) fighters continues, Baghdad-based club Al Quwa Al Jawiya, also known as Air Force Club, gave the country a reason to cheer.
Qasim's side fended away a strong challenge from I-League champions Bengaluru FC to win the final of the AFC Cup 1-0 in Doha. Air Force club also became the first Iraqi side to clinch the cup after Arbil finished as runners-up in 2012 and 2014.
After a goalless first-half, in which the Air Force Club failed to dictate terms despite having a fair share of the ball, Iraqi international Hammadi Ahmed found the back of the net in the 70th minute. They did not relent after going 1-0 up but kept pressing for more chances and punctured the hopes of Bengaluru.
Despite missing key players including midfielder Bashar Resan and forward Samal Saeed due to suspensions, Hammadi, who also won the Golden Boot after netting 16 goals in the tournament, made sure Air Force Club created history.
An elated Qasim lauded his boys for taking their chances well under pressure to go the distance in their debut AFC Cup campaign.
"I think this victory is very important not just for the fans of Air Force Club but also for the people of Iraq," Qasim was quoted as saying by the tournament's official website.
"Our players were the better team tonight as you can tell from the number of missed opportunities throughout the match although that does not mean the other team wasn't playing well.
"I am grateful because even though we were under a lot of pressure and were missing four players, we still managed to take our chances well and win the title."
On the other hand, Bengaluru FC's in-charge Albert Roca remained upbeat despite his side failing to cross the final hurdle in Doha. Notably, the Blues were the first Indian team to reach the final of the tournament.
Roca, the former assistant coach at Camp Nou, who took charge of the three-year-old club in July in the middle of this year's AFC Cup, was optimistic about reaching the finals again and going one step further in future.
"We have tried, there's nothing more to say but I'm still proud of my players. They have proved that that to be here in the final, it was not easy," Roca said.
"It is the beginning of a new era, you can see that competing at this level is even harder so there's a lot of work to do.
"We look forward to being in the final again and will try to do better than today."