International football legends in Iraq for historic all-star match

International football legends in Iraq for historic all-star match
The Iraqi city of Basra saw 65,000 football-mad spectators enjoy a thrilling 90-minute spectacle featuring international legends and Iraq's own football stars in efforts to lift the country's FIFA ban.
2 min read
10 September, 2017
Some 65,000 people filled the Basra stadium [File photo: Getty]
An all-star line-up of international football legends including Spain's Michel Salgado and Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi beat an Iraqi side 5-4 in a historic exhibition match in Basra on Saturday.

Some 65,000 football-mad spectators in Iraq, which in 2013 became subject to a FIFA ban because of continuing violence, filled the stadium for the game.

The visitors included Argentine Hernan Crespo, Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, Brazilians Zico and Rivaldo and Portuguese player Deco.

Speaking last month, former Real Madrid right-back Salgado said he hoped the match would help people forget for at least 90 minutes "their hard conditions of life".

In the crowded stands amid a sea of Iraqi flags on Saturday, spectators urged on an Iraqi side that was unable to withstand attacks from players such as the Netherlands' Patrick Kluivert who hammered home a hat-trick.

Around 3,000 members of the security forces were mobilised for the game in the southern port city and Iraqi football stronghold, officials said.

In 2013, FIFA banned Iraq from hosting international matches after the death of a football coach killed by security forces and jihadist attacks on venues broadcasting games. 

The ban was lifted in May, but conditional on the holding of matches in just three stadiums in Iraq, one of which was Basra.

"This is a historic day for our city," said 20-year-old match-goer Mohammed Jaafar on Saturday.

For those wanting to see the team of international superstars, Iraq's sports ministry reduced the original ticket price of 25,000 Iraqi dinars (about $20) to 10,000 dinars to ensure a full house.