Federation Internationale de Football Association lifts three-decade ban to allow Iraq host global matches

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 20, 2018

Gianni Infantino, the president of football's world governing body Fifa, yesterday announced the lifting of a ban on stadiums in Basra, Karbala and Erbil at the Fifa Council Meeting in Bogota.

"I was in Basra last month to see the friendly against Saudi Arabia and it was clear that the time had come to lift the restriction on competitive matches - and I am delighted Federation Internationale de Football Association agree", Shaikh Salman added.

Arbil is the capital of the country's autonomous Kurdish region.

Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra and the first official games, involving club sides from other nations, could come as early as next month.

He said the tests had "provided us with guarantees and concrete facts that VAR definitely helps referees and it will help us have a fairer and more transparent sport".

The match in Basra was watched by Asian Football Confederation head Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa who said the time had come to end the three-decade ban.

Iraq has largely been starved of worldwide matches on home soil since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, although the country held a handful of friendlies, including a February 28 match against Saudi Arabia in Basra.

Video assistant referees (VARs) will be used at the World Cup for the first time when the finals get underway in Russian Federation in June, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Friday.

Iraq has been building stadiums in recent years and has pressured stars and the governing bodies of sports to help the country return to the worldwide playing field.

Also Infantino joked that had the Russian players used doping, they would show better results.

Iraq has largely been starved of worldwide matches on home soil since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, when Federation Internationale de Football Association banned them citing security concerns.

FIFA's ban covered all matches but domestic ones and stayed in effect following the 2003 war in Iraq that led to the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The ban was briefly lifted in 2012 and allowed for a friendly match between Iraq and Jordan, but a power outage during the game led to its reinstatement.

Iraq has been forced to play its home matches in Iran, Jordan or Doha.

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