The suicide attack on a football match in Iskanderiyah, a small city 30 miles south of Baghdad, led to the death of over 28 and wounded an additional 60 on Friday. The Islamic State has not claimed this latest attack, but it reeks of IS involvement. Iraqi forces have been gaining ground in the fight against ISIS, with roughly forty percent of ISIS territory recaptured in Iraq. Iraq’s military has just launched the first stage of an offensive to regain Anbar, ending with the potential recapture of Mosul. A safer Iraq is still a long way away.

It is really sad that something as pure as sports has the shadow of death looming over it after this attack. The unifying quality of sports and football cannot be denied. Across the world, football brings people closer together. Ceasefires have been called in places such as the Ivory Coast when their national hero, Didier Drogba used to lace up his boots for both club and country. Clubs like Arsenal already reach out to children fleeing the Iraq war, which is clear evidence of football’s many altruistic aspects that are not directly relevant to the game itself.

Sports is a universal language, one that everyone understands. Turning an amateur match into a bloodbath has already sent a ripple of fear throughout the world, and this is likely to stay with both the players and the fans, increasing the feeling of insecurity when turning up to future games.

IS has been steadily losing ground in both Iraq and Syria, with 20 percent of territory lost in the latter. It is imperative to keep this push going. But at the same time, protecting civilians from attacks like this should be given the utmost importance. The push into Anbar should be facilitated with ensuring that no terrorists spill over to Baghdad and its outskirts. Unless this is done, IS will still be free to gain supporters and weaken the state’s writ in its effort to gain more territory.