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FIFA Lifts Ban on Iraq After Three Decades
Sports

FIFA Lifts Ban on Iraq After Three Decades

FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football, a move hailed by the country’s sports authorities on Saturday as a boost for its most popular game.
“We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Erbil, Basra and Karbala,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told reporters after a meeting of the FIFA Council in Bogota, AFP reported.
The three cities had been allowed to organize friendlies in the past year, provided the security situation was “stable”.
Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra.
FIFA said it could not “yet” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organize matches in the capital Baghdad, but Infantino promised that the city’s application would continue to be studied.
The three cities selected are among the more secure in Iraq.
Iraq Football Association welcomed FIFA’s decision but vowed to “spare no effort for games to be played in stadiums in other provinces, including Baghdad”.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who declared victory over terrorists in December, said the lifting of the FIFA ban was the “fruit of stability in terms of security and of the successes achieved by Iraq.” For years, Iraq has been busily building stadiums and lobbying stars and the sport’s governing bodies for a return to the international fold.
Friday’s decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years. It was watched by Asian Football Confederation head, Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, who said “the time has come” to end the three-decade ban.
The first home competitive games could come as early as next month, as two Iraqi clubs have fixtures in the AFC Cup, which were postponed pending FIFA’s decision.
Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

 

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