FIFA bans Iraq from hosting matches

FIFA has banned the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) from hosting international games due to a major increase in nationwide violence, barely three months after world football’s governing body gave the green light for matches to resume.

According to the AFP news agency, FIFA has cited a rise in unrest as the reason behind its decision. More than 2,500 people have been left dead from April through to June, and at least 123 have been killed in the first three days of July alone.

IFA official Naim Saddam said: “We received a notification from FIFA to stop hosting any friendly matches in stadiums in Iraq at the current time, and until further notice, due to the wave of violence. This is regrettable.”

Iraq is due to host the 2015 Gulf Cup of Nations, and was also scheduled to hold the 2013 edition of the tournament until it was moved to Bahrain due to security concerns. Iraqi officials criticised the decision as being politically motivated, but stated that new facilities in Basra are almost complete for the first football tournament to be held in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.