Iraq won the Gulf Cup for the first time since 1988 with a 3-2 win over Oman on Thursday but the victory was marred by a deadly crisis. outside Basra International Stadium.
This disaster may have implications for the international hopes of 2026.
As players tried to enter the stadium hours before kick-off, there was a stampede that killed at least two people and injured several others, a medical official said.
It is the first international football tournament to be hosted in Iraq since 1979 as the big prize of hosting the 2026 World Cup seems to be within reach.
Due to security problems, Iraq has only staged two World Cups since the 2003 US invasion, against Jordan in the northern city of Erbil in 2011 and Hong Kong and Basra eight years later. Other international competitions have been played in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Baghdad last played a World Cup match in September 2001 against Bahrain but was later scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup against the United Arab Emirates on March 24 last year. After an armed attack on Erbil 11 days before the match, however, the venue was changed from the Iraqi capital to Saudi Arabia.
“The Gulf Cup is a message to the international sports industry that Iraq is a safe country, that it has the power and the ability to attract the competition,” said the new Iraqi President Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
He suggested that FIFA allow Iraq to host the World Cup on home soil.
“The simplest message the international community can give to Iraq’s supporters is to lift the international ban on Iraqi stadiums,” he said.
The Gulf Cup, an eight-nation tournament that takes place every two years, began on Jan. 6 FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended.
“I am very happy that competitive football has returned to Iraq, a good country that loves football, even more so in the famous competition,” said Infantino.
It remains to be seen if the stamp affects any decision made by FIFA on Iraq hosting the 2026 World Cup which will start in Asia in October.
There has already been controversy that Iran called the Iraqi ambassador in Tehran to protest the use of the name “Arabian Gulf Cup” for the tournament. Tehran says the body of water is called the “Persian Gulf.”
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