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Hall of Fame

Assyrian Sports Hall of Fame - Tennis




Brief History

William was born in 1933 in Mosul, Iraq to Daniel Orahim and Parru Barkhu. He spent his childhood in Gailani Camp, Baghdad his early boyhood in Maharatha Lines, Hinaidi, and his adolescence and early manhood in Habbaniya. Both Hinaidi and Habbaniya were Royal Air Force bases in Iraq.


William began his schooling at Raabi Espania's school at Maharatha Lines and completed his primary education at Raabi Yacoub's school in Habbaniya. In 1949, at 16 years of age, he obtained a job with the Air Ministry Works Directorate (AMWD) as a junior clerk then gradually worked his way up to chief clerk during a stretch of only seven years.


William Daniel participated in various sports at school in Habbaniya, but played in earnest in his early teens. He played not only tennis and hockey but also soccer and table tennis. Also, he took part in track and field games, excelling in high jump. He was a good singer and dancer, too.


In his teenage years, Williams showed a promising talent in soccer, but an accident nipped it in the bud! In a cup final between the Assyrian Employees and AMWD Club teams, William, playing on the wing for AMWD, dribbled past a couple of opposing players and scored. But not before a tackling defender had kicked him in the face, opening an eight-stitch gash under his eye! After that, his father, a strict man, absolutely forbade him to play soccer again!


In 1948, noticing William's apparent talent for tennis, a Squadron Leader Dymock and a Wing Commander Gullan of the R.A.F. had offered to take him to England for proper training and coaching at their own expense. But protective of his young son, his father had declined the offer.
During his peak years in tennis, William's fame spread beyond the perimeter of Habbaniya. He, along with Andrew Simon, were once offered secure, well-paying positions and family accommodation at "staff" level by the Basra Port Authority if only they would play tennis for their club. They accepted the offer at an interview in Basra, but changed their minds on returning to Habbaniya! Once, two groups of Habbaniya sports enthusiasts debated whether William Daniel or another renowned tennis player, in Baghdad, named Eramia Youshia who was trained and coached by a Squadron Leader Freith at the YMCA where Eramia's father worked, was the Assyrian champion.
To settle the argument, a "grudge" match was arranged and played at Habbaniya. William beat Eramia in three straight sets, gaining from Eramia himself the admittance that he was "the best!"
In 1950, at the young age of 17 William Daniel married Mary, daughter of Odisho Enviya and Rehanta Nona. The teenaged couple immediately started a family that eventually grew into five sons and three daughters. All of their children except their youngest, Zaia live in Sydney Australia.
In Habbaniya, William and his partner Andrew Simon dominated the tennis court for a decade in the 1940's and 1950's and were star players on the hockey field. Between them, they picked off many of Habbaniya's Civil Cantonment and the R.A.F. Station tennis championship trophies, and in Baghdad and elsewhere they beat many top Iraqi and British, American, Lebanese, Indonesian, Egyptian and other foreign players, crowning their victories with several national championship titles. Partnered together, the pair won the Iraq Challenge Championship cup for 1955 and 1956, and in partnership with Abbas Abid, one of Iraq's brightest star players, William shared three consecutive national championships in 1961-63.
In December 1955, William Daniel left Habbaniya, with his family, and settled in Baghdad, where he was offered a job as an assistant superintendent by KOC (Khanaquin Oil Company). A few years later, KOC was absorbed by the Ministry of Oil in the nationalization process; William worked for the Iraqi Oil Ministry for the next 16 years.
William had already joined the YMCA and the Alwiyah Club to play tennis, but the Ministry required him and another top tennis-playing employee named Abbas Abid to compete in a tennis game in the name of the Ministry. Accordingly, William and his partner Andrew the played and won the Iraq Doubles Championship for three years running (1961-63). The third year, they retained the rolling cup and presented it, with their names engraved on it, to the Ministry, and the Ministry, in turn, awarded each of them a gold watch!
While in Baghdad, William and his friend and tennis partner Andrew Simon were associated with the Assyrian Sports Club (Nadi Athori) and in whose name they won two national doubles championships in 1955 and 1956. The two, along with a few other Habbaniya Assyrians, also played some friendly hockey matches for the club against the Iraqi Army and Air Force teams.
In 1962 William and Andrew, his tennis partner were selected, along with two Arabs, to represent Iraq on a tennis tour to Egypt and Lebanon. But later, Andrew and one of the two Arabs were dropped and William was partnered with another Arab.
The next year, William was again selected with two Arabs to make the three-player team. But when William had insisted on having Andrew as his doubles partner, he too was dropped from the team. It was said that the nation and the majority in Iraq (Arabs) would not be represented by a majority of players of a minority group (Assyrians) even if they were the best players!
In the 1970's, the Assyrian exodus from Iraq intensified. In 1974 William and his family departed to Beirut, Lebanon. After the usual wait, they eventually immigrated, through a refugee agency, to Sydney, Australia.
From 1976 to 1981 William played tennis for the Blacktown District team, initially a Grade 3 team on a scale of eight grades. But within the first year the team played itself to Grade 1, and William gained the Captaincy of the team. Later he was elected coach and managed the team and for which he also broke in two other Assyrian players, namely Joseph Tamraz, and a former Habbaniya player named Youkhanna Odisho.
For the first six years, William worked as an export shipping supervisor for a company called P.D.S. Co-op, and for 18 months as manager for Nineveh Club. He then traveled to Melbourne and worked there, again as export shipping supervisor, for the next three and a half years. Next he got a job as an accounts-payable supervisor in United Dairies at North Paramatta, Sydney, where he has been working since 1985.
William is now voluntary coach and manager for tennis and soccer teams of the Assyrian Sports & Cultural Club of Sydney. He was the club's secretary for two years (1982-84) and its president for three years (1985-88). He is also now the Assyrian Church of the East's secretary for welfare and immigration matters.
1988 William Daniel presented trophies at the Assyrian Cup Final in Sydney, Australia. William is the president of Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club. The team of this club were the winners in the Final against the Assyrian United Soccer team.
William Daniel and Andrew Simon were not only friends but also tennis partners and hockey teammates. They were two of Habbaniya's top sportsmen and were sought-after tennis champions in Iraqi sports circles.
  Written by Mikhael Pius
Nineveh Magazine Vol. 13, No. 5 - 1990

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Last Updated :July 21, 2016

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