"It is the greatest gift since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and shows how Iraqis from all walks of life can work together to achieve success," said Hozam Mahmoud, a Kurdish policeman, who had abandoned his traffic duties to join noisy celebrations close to the foot of the ancient citadel in the Kurdish regional capital, Irbil.
He added: "Football alone may not be able to heal the nation's deep wounds, but for the moment it has induced a sense of cohesion, and we can all build on that if we try."
One reason for the team's popularity is that its players are drawn from all sections and all parts of Iraqi society.
On the pitch yesterday were Kurds, Sunnis, Shias and Turkomans. The players had overcome kidnap threats, the murder of loved ones, and disruptions to their training schedules."