Federation Internationale de Football Association lifts three-decade ban on global matches in Iraq

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during a news conference after a FIFA Council meeting in Bogota Colombia on 16 March 2018. Reuters

Federation Internationale de Football Association lifts three-decade ban on global matches in Iraq

Gianni Infantino, the president of football's world governing body Fifa, yesterday announced the lifting of a ban on stadiums in Basra, Karbala and Erbil at the Fifa Council Meeting in Bogota.

The three cities had been hosting friendlies throughout the past year as a test run.

Arbil is the capital of the country's autonomous Kurdish region.

Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino said Saturday that the upcoming World Cup will not be a "war", as Russian authorities and Vladimir Putin are committed to ensuring safety amid fears of fan clashes.

The decision followed a successful friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia on February 28 at Basra Sport City Stadium, the first on Iraqi soil for more than 40 years.

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According to a report by WION, FIFA's decision came after constant persuasion by Iraq.

It was watched by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa who said "the time has come" to end the three-decade ban.

Yesterday's decision followed an worldwide friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years.

"The AFC, and the Asian football family as a whole, have supported this structured return of competitive football to Iraq".

Video assistant referees (VARs) will be used at the World Cup for the first time when the finals get underway in Russian Federation in June, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Friday.

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Infantino said that VAR had been shown to reduce the number of refereeing mistakes in matches where it had been used.

A US-led invasion toppled Saddam in 2003, but the ban has stayed in place due to uncertainty and instability in the country which has battles civil war as well as IS occupation in parts of the north and west from 2014 until previous year.

Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait under then dictator Saddam Hussein.

It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in Arbil led Federation Internationale de Football Association to promptly reinstate it. - AFP, March 17, 2018.

"Football development in Iraq can only be benefited by the ability of Iraqi football lovers to see matches played on their own soil and to become involved in the game at every level".

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