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Hall of Fame

Assyrian Sports Hall of Fame - Football



Brief History

Baba was born on September 15, 1919, at Baquba Refugee Camp, only months after the stragglers of the terrible exodus of the Assyrian people from Persia trudged into the camp. His father was Gewargis Shallou and his mother Nargis Allawerdi, both of the village of Dizzatacka, in the district of Urmia, Iran.
Like most Assyrians, Baba Yacoub acquired the nickname of "Baba Kouma", meaning "Black Baba", because he had a dark complexion. But the nickname was more of a playful jab than a derisive jibe!
Baba was only months old when Baquba Camp was closed down. In hope of making a living, the Shallou family and many of the other refugees went back to Iran and lived in Hamadan, Iran. But their living conditions were not satisfactory there and after three uneasy years the family returned to Iraq. Gewargis found work as a gardener with the British forces and the family settled down in Kota Camp among the families of the Assyrian and Armenian civilian employees.
In his boyhood, Baba studied at Raabi Yacoub's Assyrian and Armenian Union School at Kota Camp. After only four years of formal schooling, it became necessary for him to help out in supporting the family while still a youngster. Baba got a job with the R.A.F., for whom he worked for more than 20 years. He started out working as a metal worker, then as storekeeper and later as a clerk at Hinaidi then at Habbaniya, where in 1943 he married, Christina, daughter of Shmouel Samendu.
Soon after the British handed over Habbaniya to the Iraq Government, in 1955, Baba and family left Habbaniya and settled in Baghdad. There he got a job as storekeeper with an earth-moving equipment trading company called Rafidain Developments Ltd., for which he worked for almost two decades.
Baba first put on football boots — or perhaps ordinary sandals! — and began kicking a ball around when he was a young boy in Hinaidi in the early 1930's. A few years later, When he had gained enough skill in the game, he got into organized soccer and played for a team called "The Eagles". After the changeover of the R.A.F. air base from Hinaidi to Habbaniya, the Eagles team fizzled out and a new team called "Arsenal" was formed. He played for the "Arsenal" until this team, too, was dissolved early in the 1940's. He then got on the C. C. (Civil Cantonment) team and played for the team until this, too, was disbanded in 1947, when he finally hung up his football boots for good!
" 'Baba Kouma' played at right-half or left-half," Fraidoun Abraham ls'hak, Baba's one-time teammate and long-time close friend, told us on the phone from Calgary, Canada. "He was a good football player. He used to race the ball like the wind!" Fraidoun chuckled. "He was also tough against 'dirty' players!"
Baba's younger brother, Kaku, also was a footballer and hockey player in the forties and fifties in Habbaniya. (In fact, the two brothers at one time were on the same team.) In his teens, Kaku played for the C. C. team, and from about 1947 to the mid-1950's he was on the teams of the R.A.F. Assyrian Employees' Club and the C. C. Select. He played in the forward line — inside-left, inside-right or center-forward. He was a fine player; he had some strong and nippy shots and was a good scorer.
The C. C. soccer team of the mid-1940's — explained Fraidoun Abraham ls'hak, the veteran soccer goalkeeper of Habbaniya — was formed of various Assyrian and a few Kurdish and Arab players of disbanded earlier local Habbaniya teams, such as Eagles, Tigers, Arsenal and Blackpool, while the C. C. Select team of the 1950's was the cream of the later local Habbaniya club teams, namely Assyrian Employees, Levy Civilians, A.M.W.D., and Oriental, the latter of Kurds and Arabs.
On July 14, 1990, at the age of 71, Baba passed on at his home in Baghdad after a long battle with Leukemia. His funeral services were held, on the same day, at St. Andrew's Orthodox Church near Muasker AI-Rasheed in Baghdad, and his body was laid to rest at the new Assyrian cemetery near Baquba town, not far away from where he was born almost 71 years before! About 300 people attended the funeral. He was in semi-retirement for several years before his death.
In Baghdad, Iraq, the Assyrian community, lost a former Assyrian footballer. He was one of the early Assyrian footballers who first rallied to the Assyrian soccer fervor of the thirties in Hinaidi, Iraq.
Baba is survived by his wife Christina and a daughter, Jennie Amer, both of Baghdad; by a son, John, and two other daughters, Joanne Evens and Julie Sargis, all of Modesto; by another daughter, in Canada, Janet Yacoub; and by 12 grandchildren. Another of his survivors is his younger brother, Kaku Gewargis Shallou, who still lives in Baghdad.
Baba is also survived by three other well-known former Habbaniya soccer-playing relatives, his first cousins, the trio of the Shimshoun Shallou's boys: Sargis, one of the very best center-half Habbaniya has ever fielded, and his younger brothers William and Ben. 


Written by Mikhael Pius
Nineveh Magazine Vol. 13, No. 4 - 1990


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