Football comes home to Basra as Iraq hosts Jordan

Football comes home to Basra as Iraq hosts Jordan
For the first time since 2013, Iraqi football fans were able to witness their national team playing, and winning, on home soil.
4 min read
04 Jun, 2017
Iraqi fans witnessed their national team play on home soil after years [Getty]
Football is coming home, this time to no other place than the city of Basra, Iraq. 

For the first time since 2013, Iraqi football fans were able to witness their national team playing, and winning, on home soil.

On Thursday night, Iraq hosted Jordan for a friendly at the Basra Sport City Stadium. The match was originally planned to take place in Amman International Stadium, but after FIFA’s ban on hosting international matches in Iraq was partially lifted last month, it was quickly scheduled to Basra.

In addition to the fact that Basra was among the eligible stadiums Iraq can host along Erbil and Karabala under FIFA’s conditions, the city has a major symbolic significance in the Iraqi and Muslim heritage.

From the eras of the Rashidon Caliphate, the Abbasid Dynasty, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the British Colonial rule, Iran-Iraq War and the War in 2003, Basra was a centre of battles and bombings that survived some major disasters, including an almost complete elimination of the male population in the city.

Throughout the match the Iraqi national television channel broadcasted a super saying: “After the liberation of the land in Mosul, to the liberation of the stadium in Basra. Iraq conquers”.

Due to Ramadan, the match kicked off slightly late (10pm local time) to allow time for the breaking of the fast, but it did not interrupt the passionate Iraqi fans who piled up into the polished venue in Basra.

Jordanian Prince and Head of the Jordanian FA, Ali Al-Hussein, stood with the teams during the anthems, together with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Iraqi parliament speaker Salim Al-Jabouri.

The Lions of Mesopotamia were welcomed by 59,948 spectators, which created an electric ambience in the stadium.

Iraq hosted Jordan for a friendly at the Basra Sport City Stadium [Getty]

Iraq’s Alla Abdul-Zahra scored a magnificent header in the 15th minute, after a great assist by Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya’s captain and star Hammadi Ahmed.

It was Bassem Qasim’s debut as Iraq’s coach, and this was definitely a positive start for his candidacy.

The player who started the move was Ali Husni, the only member of the Iraqi team born in Basra, and the only Iraqi player in the Kuwaiti league.

Traditionally, the Iraqi national team usually observes players from all the various groups of the country’s population – Sunni, Shia and Kurdish.

Some would say it is done in order to represent and highlight the diversity of the Iraqi nationality.

Celebrations and festivity were huge, but in act of class the local fans in Basra made sure to clean the stadium before their leave.

The evening marked an important national mission for Iraq on the journey for the return to normality in the country. Mabrouk! 

Knock outs before the summer

Last week, the Asian Champions League played its last round of games before the summer break. The Middle Eastern teams have collided in some mega clashes, which were concluded with few tremendous results.

Emirati Al-Ain hammered Iranian Esteghlal Tehran 6-1, with a mesmerising display by Omar Amoory Abdulrahman. 

In the Al-Ahlis Derby between the Jeddah and Dubai clubs, the Saudis completed a lucrative 3-1 win in order to progress to the zonal quarterfinals, in what was Al-Ahli Dubai's last match before the anticipated merge with other Dubai teams.

As Persepolis have beaten Qatari Lekhwiya (also in its last match before the merger with El-Jaish) 1-0 and Al-Hilal have diminished Persian Khuzestan, we will witness a hot ‘football and politics’ battle in the next round, between the champions of Iran and their Saudi counterparts.

This clash will attract much attention after recent political developments in the region, and the growing tensions between Iran and Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

As the summer break is already here, it doesn’t means that the action will stop in Middle Eastern football. International matches and the Arab Champions Cup is right behind the corner, so local fans can expect some great action and stories very soon.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here