Iraq Football Association has proposed Jordan to host its 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asia Cup qualifiers, after FIFA requested an alternative venue because of ongoing protests, officials said Wednesday.

Iraq had been due to play the two games in Basra — against Iran on November 14 and Bahrain on November 19— but the southern port city has been caught up in the anti-government demonstrations that have swept Baghdad and the south.

“Jordan was chosen to host the matches against Bahrain and Iran,” Abdelkhaleq Masud, the head of Iraq’s football federation, told AFP on Wednesday.

The proposal must now be approved by FIFA.

Earlier, the Iraqi federation’s deputy head said FIFA had requested it move the games outside the country.

“FIFA informed us late Tuesday night that we must choose a new place, an alternative outside Iraq, for the scheduled match with Iran by Wednesday,” Ali Jabbar told AFP.

A statement from FIFA said it had assessed “the current security situation in Iraq” and informed the local federation that upcoming matches “must be played on neutral ground.”

“The Iraqi Football Association has been requested to nominate a neutral venue for the said matches, which is subject to confirmation by FIFA and the AFC,” it said.

Iraq tops its group for Asia Cup qualification with seven points, leading Bahrain on goal difference, while Iran holds third spot with six points.

Hong Kong and Cambodia each have one point.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iraq’s upcoming matches against Iran and Bahrain, scheduled to be played at the Basra Sports City Stadium, must be relocated to a “neutral venue outside Iraq.”

World football’s governing body, FIFA, has asked Iraq to find a neutral venue to host its upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

The anti-government demonstrations in Iraq have gripped the capital, Baghdad, and swept through several other cities in the country’s south.

In a letter to the Iraqi Football Association (IFA), FIFA said it has been “closely monitoring the safety and security situation in Iraq” for the past few weeks, where anti-government demonstrations are rampant.

It added that due to the “significant deterioration of the overall security situation,” Iraq’s upcoming matches against Iran and Bahrain, scheduled to be played at the Basra Sports City Stadium, must be relocated to a “neutral venue outside Iraq.”

The move “will enable all interested parties to focus their attention on delivering both matches successfully within a safe and secure environment,” the FIFA statement read.

Iraq is set to play Iran on November 14 before they host Bahrain five days later. FIFA has given the IFA until November 7 to find a suitable venue for the qualifiers.

The Basra Sports City Stadium seats 65,000 people and is one of the country’s top sporting facilities suitable for international games.

Iraq sits top of Group C of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, a group that consists of rivals Iran, Bahrain, Hong Kong, and Cambodia.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a delegation from the Spanish Real Madrid Club March 21 to discuss joint sports projects in Iraq.

The delegation’s visit was welcomed by not only Iraq’s sports and political elites, but also by the Iraqi people, known for their love for soccer and their enthusiasm for La Liga, Spain’s professional soccer league.

Iraqis have set up a Real Madrid Football Fan Association in Iraq and last year, the Espanyol Football Club from Barcelona opened its own soccer academy in Baghdad with Iraqi coaches. The academy participated in this month’s youth Black Sea Cup in Russia.

Click here to read the full story.

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi’s football fans enjoy their first international match in over 20 years, after FIFA lifted a ban on the war-torn country.

Iraq was prohibited from hosting international games since the early 1990s until FIFA ruled in March to bring it back into the full international fold.

View on YouTube

By John Lee.

Soccer’s governing body FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is quoted as saying that this will allow international matches to be played in Erbil, Basra (pictured) and Karbala, where the security situation was considered to be “stable“, but not yet in Baghdad.

Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra.

(Sources: AFP, Reuters)

By John Lee.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has promised to build a football stadium in Iraq.

The news followed a friendly match between the two countries’ teams in Basra last week.

The Iraqi-Saudi Ministerial Coordination Council met on Monday to discuss the measures needed to improve cooperation in the economic, investment, cultural and other sectors.

(Sources: Asharq al-Awsat, Reuters)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Three years after the world’s most popular sport was banned in Mosul by the Islamic State (IS), soccer has returned to the city the terrorist group had claimed as its capital.

soccer game between Mosul FC and the Ninevah police soccer team was held Aug. 29 in the liberated city of Mosul, on a field damaged by shelling and surrounded by dilapidated buildings, bleachers in disrepair and a few fans.

Nashwan al-Hamdani, a resident of Mosul, told Al-Monitor, “Seeing this feels strange. We have not had a soccer game here in three years.”

When IS took control of Mosul on June 10, 2014, it imposed sanctions on anyone who played soccer. These included the death penalty, which was the fate of six children.

Forty days after the liberation of Mosul, the semi-official game between the two teams took place at the University of Mosul rather than in Mosul FC’s stadium because a large part of the latter had been destroyed during military operations.

The game was not the first to take place following the city’s liberation; local teams had already started playing on smaller fields in destroyed neighborhoods.

“This is Mosul FC’s first game after IS took over the city in 2014, and it sure will not be the last,” Ahmed Al-Huraithi, the club’s media manager, told Al-Monitor.

A number of Mosul FC’s stars participated in previous competitions over the past months with smaller local teams in preparation for the big game.

Security officers and government officials in Mosul expressed their desire to support the comeback of sports and believe the game is the first of many post-liberation soccer games to come.

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq has been working to get the FIFA ban on its soccer stadiums lifted by hosting showcase games and wooing international soccer stars to tour the country’s facilities.

The latest games were held June 26 and June 29 in Karbala between the Iraqi Olympic team and its Syrian counterpart. Iraq won the first game 2-0 and the second game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The games come as Iraq is trying to get the international governing body for soccer to lift its ban, which has been in place since 2013. In May, FIFA agreed to let Iraq host unofficial games, or “friendlies,” during a three-month trial period. Before its game with the Syrian Olympic team, the Iraqi national team played June 1 against the Jordanian team at Basra International Stadium in southern Iraq. About 65,000 spectators turned out to see Iraq win 1-0.

In addition to hosting unofficial games, Iraq is trying to attract international soccer stars to visit its sports facilities. Iraq is preparing to receive a group of international soccer stars to participate in a friendly game with Iraq’s standout players. On June 18, former Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids arrived in Iraq to explore Basra International Stadium, where the game will be played Aug. 1.

“The Iraqi people have a passion for [soccer] and the promotional games will contribute to lifting the ban imposed on Iraqi soccer,” Davids said during his visit. Ahmed Musawi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Youth and Sports, greeted Davids.

Musawi told Al-Monitor, “There are signs that the ban could be lifted, especially amid the games that Iraq played against Jordan and Syria. We have sensed a great [will] on the part of the Arab and international federations to lift the ban on Iraqi stadiums.”

He added, “There are international companies ready to cooperate with Iraq in organizing international games. … Also, the most prominent game between international and Iraqi soccer stars will take place in August.”

Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, former Brazilian soccer stars, former Dutch soccer star Clarence Seedorf and Davids are among the sports celebrities who will be coming to Basra.

A source in the Ministry of Youth and Sports told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Once the friendly games to be held in Iraqi stadiums are over, Iraq will submit a special dossier about those games and the related organizational measures to the International Federation of Football [FIFA], along with videos showing the spectators.”

Iraq has seen its share of bans on hosting games. The ban imposed since 2013 came after a coach was killed by security forces and the country was experiencing frequent jihadi attacks. Other safety-related bans were imposed in 1985 during the Iran-Iraq War, in 1990 with the invasion of Kuwait and in 2003 during the US war on Iraq. In 2009, the Iraqi National Olympic Committee disbanded the Iraq Football Association (IFA) and Iraqi security forces took over the IFA’s offices.

The FIFA Emergency Committee then suspended the IFA. The Iraqi Olympic Committee and the IFA had a long-running dispute over who was in charge of the country’s soccer program.

In a promising sign, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) allowed Iraq to host a conference game in May between two Iraqi teams: Air Force and Al-Zawraa.

Though Iraq has had to play all of its official FIFA games outside its own stadiums in recent years, it has managed a number of achievements. It ranked No. 4 at the 2004 Athens Olympics, took first place in the West Asian Games in 2005, won the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 and the Arab Cup for Juniors for the first time in 2014.

The national team also won the AFC Asian U-22 cup for Olympic teams in 2014, the AFC Asian U-16 cup in 2016 and the AFC Asian U-14 cup in 2014. Also, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya Iraqi soccer club won the AFC Cup in 2016. In 2013, Iraq won the World Military Championship for the fourth time.

During a June 1 meeting with the Jordanian Football Association president in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, “Sports unite Iraqis and lifting the embargo will be a good omen and a security message for a new stage.”

Minister of Youth and Sports Abdul-Hussein Abtan also extended an invitation last month to the US national soccer team to come to Iraq and play a friendly game with the Iraqi national team. US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Williams said at the time that Iraq had earned a lifting of the ban in part because of the state of its sports stadiums.

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After a years-long absence predominantly due to security concerns, international football will return to Iraq when the country hosts a second-round match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.