Football: Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

The Gulf crisis forced organisers to move the eight-nation Gulf Cup from host Qatar to Kuwait. Doha agreed on condition that it would host the next Gulf tournament, in 2019.

  

– Stadium gun ban –

While Abttan’s efforts to bring football tournaments back to Iraqi soil appear to be bearing fruit, he faces challenges persuading other sports teams to visit the country.

He criticised Lebanon’s Al-Riyadi basketball club for refusing to play in Iraq in March, on security grounds.

“It’s unfortunate to find an Arab basketball club that refuses to play in Iraq for security reasons while there are Arab football clubs that are ready to come and play here,” he said. 

“But it will not affect our efforts to lift the FIFA ban.”

He said that while some sports stadiums were faulty, such as in Arbil, “a lot of work has been done… and a lot of money has been spent” to bring them up to standard.

He said he is also determined to tackle the problem of armed men in stadiums.

In January, a supporter of a local team opened fire on the bus of the opposing club, although nobody was wounded in the incident.

Later the same month, Iraq’s Police club, owned by the interior ministry, was banned from playing in Baghdad’s main football ground following a brawl between police and stadium guards.

Military officers have been known to bring both cars and weapons into stadiums.

“Nobody could stop them because they are high ranking,” Abttan said.

“But now it is different, and in coordination with the interior ministry, we put an end to this situation, which was in total contradiction with FIFA rules.”

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