Iraqis call on FIFA to lift international football ban on home stadiums

As the 2021 Arab Cup in Qatar spotlights football in the Arab World, Iraqis are taking the opportunity to pressure FIFA into lifting a decades-long ban on international football in their stadiums.

Iraqi football fans are campaigning for football’s governing body FIFA to lift its decades-long ban on Iraqi stadiums, as the tenth edition of the FIFA Arab Cup takes place in Qatar.

Ahead of Iraq’s clash with Qatar in the group stage of the Arab Cup, last Friday, Iraqi sports journalist Ali Nouri launched the campaign on Twitter.

“Young people, your support is needed to end this injustice in Iraq. Let’s get this trending and recover our rights,” he tweeted.

“This campaign will continue, and we aim to pressure the FIFA and the Asian Federation to lift the ban on our stadiums.”

High-profile media personalities and ordinary Iraqis alike have since promoted the campaign #Be_fair_to_us_the_ban_on_Iraq_is_unjust, describing the ban as “unjustified” and “unnecessary”.

Many have posted images of packed Iraqi football stadiums to emphasise the safety of the country and the viability of its football infrastructure.

Iraqi journalist and presenter Ali Al-Khalidi tweeted yesterday: “Until when must we play outside Iraqi lands? Look at the beautiful crowds in the West Asian Youth Championship in Baghdad.”

Iraqi football fans have been prevented from supporting their team on home soil since 1990 when FIFA banned matches in Iraqi stadiums citing security reasons.

The ban was largely upheld following the US-led occupation of Iraq in 2003, which toppled Saddam Hussein and led to years of internal conflict.

It was briefly lifted in 2018 when Iraq hosted Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament in the port city of Basra. The ban was reinstated after widespread protests erupted across the country in 2019.

In September, FIFA sent representatives to Basra to see if international matches could be held there again.

At present, the Iraqi national football team plays its official home matches in Jordan, Iran, or Qatar, with very few Iraqi fans present to support their side.

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