FIFA lifts ban on Iraqi stadiums amid 'improved security'

FIFA lifts ban on Iraqi stadiums amid 'improved security'
FIFA lifted a ban on international competitive matches in the Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Erbil.
2 min read
17 March, 2018
Iraqi players sing their national anthem at a FIFA event [Getty]
FIFA lifted a ban on Iraq hosting competitive international soccer matches at stadiums as a result of improved security and stablity in the country, Reuters reported.

The ban's lifting will cover stadiums in Basra, Karbala and Erbil, FIFA President Gianna Infantino announced on Friday while in Bogota.

“In these three cities, international matches will be allowed to be played as far as FIFA is concerned,” Infantino told reporters.

These cities had already been hosting friendly matches thoughout 2017 as a test run.

However, FIFA has yet to approve Iraq hosting international competitive matches in Baghdad, the country's capital. FIFA officials said the issue needed further study.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which Iraq is a member of, welcomed the FIFA decision. “This is a significant moment in shaping the future of football in Iraq,” said Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, AFC's president.

Not many international competitive matches have taken place in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, after which FIFA put in a ban due to security concerns.

The ban continued after the US-led invasion in 2003, which removed Hussein from power. The ban has been irregularly lifted since, but in 2014 most recently reinstated as the country waged a costly war with the Islamic State. 

The ban has in that time forced Iraq's national team to play home matches in other countries - namely Iran, Jordan and Qatar.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi welcomed FIFA's Friday decision, congratulating the Iraqi people and sports public.

In recent months, Iraq has overhauled its stadiums and security at football matches. Weapons have also been outlawed to persuade the football governing body to allow competitive games. 

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