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Two AFC Cup games involving Iraqi clubs postponed

IRAQ

Two AFC Cup games involving Iraqi clubs postponed

Two AFC Cup games involving Iraqi clubs postponed

The matches have been put off until April by the AFC in the hope that Fifa lifts a ban on Iraq hosting competitive international games.

Two AFC Cup matches involving Iraqi teams have been postponed until April by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Al Zwara were scheduled to host Bahraini side Manam Club on Tuesday, while Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya’s match against Malkiya of Bahrain was to be played a week later.

The postponements come in the hope that Fifa will lift a ban on the country hosting competitive international games.

"Fifa have emphasised that the lifting of the ban on playing matches in Iraq applies only for international friendly matches and that the AFC Cup matches are not friendly games and therefore cannot be staged in Iraq without a change in the current ruling by the Fifa Council," the AFC said in a statement.

"As the next Fifa Council is to be held on March 15-16, 2018, the AFC, in order to provide the Iraqi clubs with an opportunity to play the matches on home soil and in accordance with the AFC Cup Regulations 2018 (Article 7.3) have decided to postpone the affected matches until April 16 and 17, 2018."

Due to security reasons, over almost three decades, Iraqi teams have been forced to host international matches in neighbouring countries like Iran and Jordan.

Last week, AFC president Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa called for the Middle East country to host international games.

International football gone from Iraq since 1990

Fifa placed the embargo on Iraq back in 1990, in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

The ban was temporarily lifted in 2012 when Erbil hosted an Iraq-Jordan match, only for the game to be interrupted by a power failure, leading Fifa to reimpose the sanction.

However, last week, after receiving permission by Fifa, the country was the venue for a friendly international against Saudi Arabia in Basra.

The clash, which ended 4-1 to Iraq, was the first time in over four decades that the nation had played a home match against neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

"Time has come" to lift the ban

In a news conference ahead of the match against Saudi Arabia, AFC chief Al-Khalifa said "the time has come" to end the ban.

"We ask Fifa to take this decision and we invite Fifa's leaders to come and watch matches in Iraq," he said.

Later in March, Fifa will decide whether to lift the embargo.

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