ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Franso Hariri Stadium in the Kurdistan Region’s capital could host World Cup football matches if FIFA decides to expand the 2022 tournament to include 48 teams, a Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi Parliament said on Thursday.
According to lawmaker Diyar Berwari, the Iraqi Parliament’s Sport and Youth Committee has presented a proposal to the Iraqi Ministry of Sport and Youth to contact FIFA about the possibility of some group stage matches being held in Iraq.
“We have three FIFA-quality stadiums, in Erbil, Karbala, and Basra, where the international matches could be played,” Berwari told Kurdistan 24.
Qatar was voted to host the World Cup in 2022 after Russia won the bid to host the 2018 tournament during a December 2010 election.
FIFA officials are expected to meet on Friday to decide whether to expand the tournament to include 48 teams instead of the traditional 32, although a final decision won’t be made until a meeting in Paris on June 6.
The 2022 World Cup is also the first tournament which will be held during the winter season due to the scorching summer temperatures in the Gulf country.
FIFA has named Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates as potential co-hosts for the tournament.
According to Berwari, Kuwait has indicated it may not be able to fulfill FIFA’s request which is why a proposal was sent to the Iraqi Ministry of Sport and Youth to agree with the world football governing body on potentially hosting games.
“FIFA is welcome to test the quality of our stadiums in the meantime by hosting international friendly matches,” the Kurdish lawmaker said.
In March 2018, FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq, allowing three provinces to host international football matches, including Erbil.