Iraq to play 2022 World Cup qualifying matches on home soil
Iraq's football association has announced that 2022 World Cup qualification matches will take place in Basra, Iraq, after international games were played overseas due to instability.
Basra International Stadium's announcer told the crowd the news on 21 March, during a friendly football match that saw hosts Iraq beat Jordan 3-2.
Iraq has been suffering a shortage of international matches on home soil since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, after FIFA issued a ban due to security reasons.
It stayed in place after the US-led invasion in 2003, which ousted defunct President Saddam Hussein. It was intermittently lifted, but reimposed, mainly due to war against Islamic State group.
Iraq has been playing its home matches in nearby countries, including Iran, Jordan or Doha.
The country, however, has held some friendlies, including an exhibition match against Saudi Arabia in Basra on 28 February.
In 16 March 2018, FIFA President Gianni Infantino officially announced the ban's lifting on stadiums in Basra, Karbala and Erbil at the FIFA Council Meeting in Bogota.
"In these three cities, international matches will be allowed to be played as far as FIFA is concerned," said Infantino.
The Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa hailed the announcement. "This is a significant moment in shaping the future of football in Iraq," he said.
Construction of Basra International Stadium started in mid-July 2009 and was inaugurated in 2013. It has the capacity of 65,000 spectators - one of the biggest stadiums in the region.