BAHRAIN’S senior men’s national football team are set to play a major qualifying match in the Iraqi city of Basra later this year, it has emerged.
This follows the approval by football’s world governing body Fifa earlier this week for Iraq to host its upcoming joint-qualifying matches for the Fifa World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023.
Bahrain are pencilled in to play away against their Iraqi counterparts on November 19 at the 65,000-capacity Basra Sports City.
The decision comes more than a year after Fifa conditionally lifted a ban to allow international games in Erbil, Karbala and Basra; and after Iraq’s successful hosting of the 9th West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship earlier this month, where Bahrain were crowned champions.
A letter, dated August 20, 2019, to the Iraq Football Association from Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “Based on the decision of the Fifa Council Meeting in March 2018 ‘to conditionally lift the ban to allow international official matches in Erbil, Basra and Karbala, subject to decision by the relevant tournament organisers’, Fifa conducted an assessment visit to Iraq during the ninth WAFF Championship tournament as well as an overall risk assessment.
“I am pleased to inform you that after evaluation of the assessment, Basra can be nominated as home venue for the official qualification matches for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 – until further notice and subject to revocation at any time if the security situation should deteriorate.”
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain hailed Fifa’s decision to approve Basra to host the qualifiers.
Shaikh Salman explained that the decision is a “great achievement for Iraqi football, and will be a great support for the development efforts for the game in the country.”
Shaikh Salman also stressed that the AFC has always supported Iraqi requests to host official international matches. He also expressed his confidence that Iraq will be able to provide all the necessary infrastructure and logistics to make Iraq matches a great success in the joint-World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.
Iraq’s first home qualifying match will be against Hong Kong on October 10.
Bahrain and Iraq meet in their opening qualifying game at the National Stadium in Riffa on September 5.