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Fifa gives Iraq green light to host World Cup qualifiers; “closely monitoring” Hong Kong situation

Football world governing body Fifa has allowed Iraq to host their national team’s upcoming World Cup qualifying games in their southern city, Basra, following a “security assessment by a Fifa delegation”.

A letter to the Iraq football association from Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “I am pleased to inform you that after evaluation of the assessment, Basra can be nominated as home venue for the official qualification matches for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 – until further notice and subject to revocation at any time if the security situation should deteriorate.”

Iraq has hosted most qualifiers in neutral countries since the 1980s due to security concerns, playing in Iran, Jordan and Malaysia previously.

Fifa’s approval was given following a successful West Asian Football Federation Championship in Iraq and the Kurdistan region last month, the first major international tournament held in the region since the 1991 Gulf War. Representatives from Fifa inspected the football stadiums in Basra, Karbala and Erbil, as well as surrounding facilities like hotels and accommodation for fans.

Hong Kong is set to be the first team to play at the 65,000-capacity Basra Sports City stadium after this announcement on Oct 10, followed by Iran on November 14.

Fifa also stated it is “closely monitoring the situation” in Hong Kong, with widespread pro-democracy protests making their match against Iran on September 10 a concern.