ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil was host to a regional football tournament for Iraqi club Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya on Friday as nationwide protests continue in Iraq.
Erbil’s Franso Harriri Stadium, home to Erbil Sport Club, was the venue for the second round of the 2019/20 Arab Club Champions Cup, where Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya played Algerian club MC Alger.
The match, the first of two-legs, ended in a 0-0 draw. The second leg will be played in Algeria.
Al-Shorta, another Iraqi club in the inter-club tournament, is expected to play the second leg of their match-up against Mauritanian club FC Nouadhibou in Erbil. Al-Shorta leads 1-0 on aggregate.
Anti-government protests have been ongoing in central and southern Iraqi provinces since early October. The violent demonstrations have affected sport in Iraq as the 2019/20 Iraqi Premier League has been suspended indefinitely.
World football’s governing body, FIFA, has asked Iraq to find a neutral venue to host its upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers.
In a letter to the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) on Wednesday, FIFA said it has been “closely monitoring the safety and security situation in Iraq” for the past few weeks.
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 request comes as a blow to the progress of Iraqi football. In August, FIFA allowed Iraq to play international qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup at home following a decision to lift a three-decade ban on the country for hosting international matches.
(Additional reporting by Derbaz Ahmed)