A national football team managed to achieve what the world superpowers and the local politicians could not, and that is to bring momentary peace, unity and joy to a long-suffering nation.
On Sunday the Iraqi national team managed the impossible when they beat tournament favourites Saudi Arabia 1-0 to lift the Asian Cup.
"The Lions of the Two Rivers" last reached the semifinals of this tournament 31 years ago when there was still relative peace in their country.
The story of the team's achievements is full of lessons for us all. More importantly, it underscores the point that is made repeatedly: that football has the power to bring people together.
According to reports, the Iraqi team endured all kinds of difficulties en route to the Asian Cup tournament in Malaysia.
First, they travelled economy class for 36 hours for their opening match, had their captain Younis Mahmood detained for 12 hours in another country, and had their hotel double-booked just before a crucial game.
But that was nothing compared to what they left behind. In Baghdad, their home capital, two car bombs killed 50 residents on the day they won the semifinals. This tragedy sadly happens every day in their home country.
The Iraqis have lived under difficult conditions of tyranny, oppression and fear for years under former dictator Saddam Hussein. They now live with the daily grind of occupation and terror of car bombs and abductions. They do not have a football league to speak of. They do not have the time to go to soccer matches. Yet the young men of Baghdad and Basra found solace in the "beautiful game".
They buried their religious differences and clan affiliations to unite for their nation, and as they say, "the Iraqi people".
When it counted, the Sunni was very keen to pass the ball to the Shiite, who would pass it to the Christian. Brothers united in their passion for football and love of their people and their country.
In their achievement in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday the Iraqi team reminded the world that the human spirit can and will always triumph against adversity.
That this happened at the expense of the better resourced former champions from "stable" Saudi Arabia in itself tells a story of remarkable courage. We can all learn and draw inspiration from this.
Watching this remarkable spectacle on television, as well as the outpouring of spontaneous joy and celebration of the usually terrorised Iraqis, gave me hope that one day they too will enjoy the peace and stability that many of us around the world take for granted.
I was also pleased that in the football team's achievement lay some road map for the Iraqis to live in peace together.
As we count days towards the World Cup in 2010, some of us were reminded of the powerful force that this sport can be to build characters and careers of young people who otherwise would be forsaken.
As their Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira observed: "This is not just about football... This is more important than that.
"This has brought happiness to a whole country. This is not about a team, this is about human beings."
We thank the Iraqi national team for giving the world hope where none existed.
l Tim Modise is the 2010 World Cup SA Local Organising Committee's head of communications. - For your suggestions, queries and more on 2010 e-mail TimM@2010saloc.com