Saudi Arabia offers to fund new Iraq football stadium

Approximately 60,000 fans watched the match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at Basra Sports City. (AFP pic)
Approximately 60,000 fans watched the match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at Basra Sports City. (AFP pic)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has offered to fund a new football stadium in Iraq as FIFA prepares to decide whether to lift its ban on Iraq hosting competitive international matches.

The offer came in a telephone call between King Salman and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday evening, the prime minister’s office said.

It provided no further details about the cost of the stadium or where it might be located.

It follows an international friendly between the two countries in Basra, Iraq, on February 28 – their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years.

The king described the game, which Iraq won 4-1 in front of a capacity 60,000 crowd, as a “success”, Abadi’s office said.

It was watched by Asian Football Confederation head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, who said “the time has come” to end the three-decade ban on Iraq hosting competitive international matches.

FIFA is due to decide on March 16.

The country has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it.