For 1st time in almost 30 years, Basra hosts intl’l friendly match between Iraq, Saudi Arabia

Iraqi national football team players take part in a training session ahead of their friendly match against Saudi Arabia. Photo: HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI / AFP

Basra ( – The Saudi national football team arrived Wednesday in Basra city, where it is scheduled to play a friendly game against Iraq in a move that aims at persuading FIFA to lift a ban on international matches being played in Iraqi cities.

According to Alghad Press correspondent, the Saudi team “touched down at the Basra International Airport today afternoon, then it headed for a hotel, where it will stay for a few hours before playing the match night.”

The friendly encounter between the Iraqi and Saudi national teams is part of Baghdad’s bids to have a ban imposed by FIFA lifted on international matches being played on Iraqi pitches.

No international football matches were played in Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which triggered an international embargo.

The ban was briefly lifted in 2012 but it was reinstated again by FIFA following a power outage during a match against Jordan in Erbil.

But after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory against the Islamic State group in December, Fifa allowed friendly international matches to take place in Basra and Karbala.

Saudi Arabia, by playing the match, seeks to increase diplomatic and economic ties with Iraq in order to counter Iran’s influence in the country.

A social media campaign dubbed “Greens, it’s your homeland” – in reference to the Saudi team – was launched among Twitter users in Basra to welcome Saudi Arabia’s footballers.

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