Monday, March 21, 2011

How I met Uday Hussein and How I worked with The Iraq Soccer Team by Allen S Miller

Valley of the Kings, Giza Egypt

In August of 1990, Allen S. Miller, of HitmanPR led a team of physicians to the World Games in Chiro Egypt and ultimately worked for the Iraq Soccer team and Uday Hussein. Egypt wanted to be considered a contender on the world stage for an Olympic bid and spared no expense at updating their sports facilities. I was accredited with Sierra Leone Olympic Track & Field Team and had been since our introduction at the All African Games in 1988 held Lagos, Nigeria. These were tense times; President Herbert Walker Bush and Saddam Hussein were locked in a moral debate over Saddam’s taking of Kuwait. The night before I was to depart, I got a phone call from the “state department” to be more accurate my stepbrothers’ father in the CIA, not to go.
Once on the ground we quickly organized the team and went to the accreditation center for our credentials. Once I checked in and received my credentials I needed to get the rest of the team accredited for the games. This became a problem, and for some unknown reason, everything was denied, until I met with the head of security. I was immediately escorted to the security center and was graciously asked if I wanted tea, while I waited for the General. I had brought pins from the US, FBI and State Agencies as presents. I had known the General since Lagos and had seen him on my several trips to Africa. I gave him an FBI pin as a gift, at which point he broke out the Scotch, and we talked for hours. Subsequently, the General facilitated the doctor’s credentials for entry. After checking in with my team, we entered the stadium area and setup on the practice field. This may seem strange that we didn’t got the medical center, however, this is where everybody setups up their equipment. There is an old rule in sports, you go where the athletes are, and they are usually at the practice field. Sports medicine is a cooperative, a family; we all know each other and help each other. It always amused me that journalists would write that there were political rivalries inside the center. To the contrary, we all worked, with each other, shared each other’s equipment and supplies. Now Africa is an amazing place, everyone is a variety of colors from black to white and everything in between. The badges did not have nationality on them, the badges only indicated the team you were credentialed with, I was credentialed with Sierra Leone, it was just accepted that I was from Sierra Leone.
As we were setting up and operational on the practice grounds the athletes started to arrive for a variety of services. I was approached by the team manager for the Iraq Soccer team. Their manager was a very charismatic and engaging gentleman. We talked for a long time, as he was very interested in our services. My team of doctors evaluated and treated the team as they would all the other teams at the games. The rhetoric between the USA and Iraq was escalating, during the time we were there.
There was a fear that violence would breakout as the games organizers decided to issue evacuation plans and the location shelters. To the dismay of the team, the organizers went so far as to overlap targets on the parts of the city that we were housed. We were watching the coverage of the Kuwait conflict on a fledgling news channel called CNN. As the games were wrapping up, the manager of the Iraq Soccer team invited some of us to dinner at his hotel (Hilton on the Nile) with his father. I picked the members of the team that had the most impact with the soccer team and off we went to dinner at the Hilton. We met up with the team manager, outside the Hilton, as directed. He apologized greatly that dinner had to be “postponed” as his father had to go back home as “Bush invaded Iraq”. I very naively asked “who is your father”, The team manager replied “my father is Saddam Hussein”. Now in amazement he said then you are? He replied Uday Hussein, he kings son. Uday Hussein apologized greatly for the embarrassment and asked if I would come to Iraq “following this unpleasantness” and work with his team and physicians. I had to laugh and stated “well I am honored and would be glad to come, but I think my government would disapprove”. Uday, asked “why would Sierra Leone disapprove”? I then stated that I was an American, we both just started laughing. Uday, then stated that “he would insure my safety” and to contact him once this conflict was over”. He then handed me a keychain with his likeness and the likeness of his father on them. He thanked me greatly for the service and kindness provided both him and his team. We parted and I was never to see him again. My dinner with Saddam Uday Hussein got cancelled by President Bush’s’ bombing of Kuwait.

So the moral of the story and one I have lived all my life; be nice you never know who you are talking too.