August 21 – Iraq has been given the all-clear to stage World Cup 2022 qualifiers in the southern city of Basra.
It has been a long journey back to World Cup hosting for the Iraqis. Two years ago FIFA authorised Iraq to host international matches in three different cities, namely Basra, Erbil and Kerbala.
The ban on hosting had previously been briefly lifted in 2012 but it was reinstated again by FIFA following a power outage during a match against Jordan in Erbil.
Since then, backed by the Asian Football Confederation, Iraq has hosted the AFC Cup final in 2018 and the West Asian Football Championship earlier this year when Basra staged matches without any incidents or security breaches.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “We worked to support the great efforts in Iraq, represented by the Ministry of Sport and Iraq Football Association, as we approved during the recent months to host AFC Champions League and AFC Cup matches in Iraq.
“The AFC also decided to appoint Iraq as the host of their group for the 2020 AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers, as the AFC was happy to act on FIFA’s decision to end the ban of international matches in Iraq,” he added.
Iraq staged its 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Iran, Jordan and Malaysia. The country will host Hong Kong on October 10 in its first 2022 qualification match. Neighbors and rivals Iran are scheduled to visit on November 14. Bahrain and Cambodia are also in their qualification group.
The decision to allow Iraq to play home matches was notified in a letter from FIFA president Gianni Infantino. “FIFA conducted an assessment visit during the 9th WAFF Championships as well as an overall risk assessment. As a result Basra can be nominated as a host venue for the official qualification matches,” he said.
At the Asian Cup in January, Iraq were eliminated 1-0 by eventual champions Qatar in the round of sixteen. In their group games then had drawn with 0-0 with Iran, but overall were disappointed with their Asian Cup performance.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1569205563labto1569205563ofdlr1569205563owedi1569205563sni@o1569205563fni1569205563