Iraq is to host a West Asia Football Federation (WAFF) championship in the city of Basra in November, the first major regional tournament to be hosted in the Middle Eastern nation since 1979. The country was prohibited from hosting international games since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
In March Fifa ruled to bring Iraq back into the full international fold. Three stadiums in the country have been given the green-light to host the ties. They are the stadium in Karbala, the country's most modern arena in the southern city of Basra, and the main stadium in Iraqi Kurdistan's capital Arbil. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, was not included in the lift, as it still sees frequent militant attacks.
Congratulations to the city of Basra for being chosen to host the 2018 West Asian Football Federation Championship. The @IraqiGovt is building new world-class stadiums and other facilities to support the development of the game at all levels pic.twitter.com/t7wxPK6sKG— Government of Iraq (@IraqiGovt) 21 May 2018
Iraq eager for football
On Sunday, Iraqi authorities praised WAFF’s invitation to host the tournament, saying that they are "eager to organize a major footballing event and to show that it is ready at all levels."
The tournament in Basra will feature the national sides from eight Arab countries. Back in March, Iraq hosted a friendly tournament with Syria and Qatar as guests.
"This is a significant moment in shaping the future of football in Iraq" the AFC said in a statement at the time. "The AFC, and the Asian football family as a whole, have supported this structured return of competitive football to Iraq".