ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – World football’s governing body, FIFA, has granted Iraq approval to play international qualification matches for the 2022 World Cup at home at the Basra Sports City Stadium.
“After evaluation of the situations, Basra can be considered as a home venue for the official qualification matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” a letter FIFA sent to the Iraqi Football Association on Tuesday read.
The decision was made following a successful 2019 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region—the first major international tournament held in the region since the 1991 Gulf War.
In its Tuesday letter, FIFA warned it could overturn its decision to approve home matches being played in Iraq subject to security concerns.
During the 2019 WAFF tournament, group matches were played at the Karbala International Stadium and Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium.
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Last week, representatives from FIFA visited Iraq and the autonomous Kurdish region to inspect the football stadiums in Basra, Karbala, and Erbil, as well as surrounding facilities like hotels and accommodations for fans.
Abdul-Khaliq Masoud, the head of Iraq’s FA, previously told Kurdistan 24 that the 20,000-seater Franso Hariri Stadium is among the top facilities in the region. He added that the Kurdistan Region, in general, provides security and safety to fans and tourists.
The Basra Sports Stadium, on the other hand, seats 65,000 people and is one of the country’s top sporting facilities more suitable for international games.
Iraq is in Group C of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, a group which consists of rivals Iran, Bahrain, Hong Kong, and Cambodia.
Iraq will play Bahrain on Sept. 5 at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa to open its qualifying campaign. The Iraqis will be hoping to avenge their 2019 WAFF Final loss on home soil last week.