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Youra Eshaya
Nationality:Irq
Caps (goals):75 (?)
Rovers apps (gls)1:0 (0)
Date of birth:1933
Place of birth:Iran
Height:5 ft 4 in
Position:Forward
Date joined:August 1954
Date left:December 1955
1 League appearances and goals only.

Youra Eshaya is an Iranian born Iraqi international who became the first Iraqi to play football in Europe. Born in 1933, his family moved across the Iran-Iraq border in 1935 to live at the Royal Air Force Station Hinaidi where his father was to work. Two years later his family were transferred to RAF Habbaniya.

At the age of 15 he played for Levy Civilian in the RAF Football League as well as RAF Employees/Assyrian Club junior team whom he captained to the RAF FA Youth Cup. He went on to play for RAF Habbaniya against multiple other RAF teams across the Middle East. He scored a hat-trick for Iraqi Command XI against RAF Suez Canal XI in April 1953. Rovers scout Flight Lieutenant R. K. Weston saw the match and recommended him to manager Bert Tann.

Tann brought him to England in August 1954. He worked as a miner whilst playing for Bristol Rovers Colts (the third team) playing 23 times and scoring four times. He was called up to the reserve side where he played three times scoring once. He played a further four reserve games the following season before the president of the Royal Iraqi Air Force FC, Brigadier Khadim Abbadi, invited him to play for Iraqi Air Force XI in return for Iraqi citizenship and a place in the Iraqi Air Force. Eshaya returned to Iraq in December 1955, a few months short of being eligible to play for the Rovers first team.

He went on to play 75 times for the Iraqi national side including a number of games during the 1960 Olympic games.

He was forced to retire in 1971 after marrying a Swedish woman named Elizabeth. The Iraqi Baath Government forbid members of the Iraqi military from marrying non-Arab's. He emigrated to Sweden in 1972 where he fathered three children. He died on July 21st 1992 after suffering a heart attack whilst coaching schoolchildren in Gothenburg.

In 2004 Rovers had organised to play a Friendly against the Iraq national side to mark the 50th anniversary of Eshaya's time at the club, but the game was cancelled due to safety concerns.

Further readingEdit

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