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