Iraq has been awarded hosting rights for this year’s West Asia Football Federation (WAFF) Championship, with the event to mark the first time the country has hosted a national team tournament since the 1990s.
The move comes after Fifa, the sport’s global governing body, in March approved the return of competitive international matches to Iraq. The country has been largely forced to play home matches in Iran, Jordan or Qatar since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the resulting conflict in the region.
However, Basra did host a landmark friendly game with Saudi Arabia on February 28, and it was one of the three cities given the green light by Fifa, along with Karbala and Erbil.
This year’s WAFF Championship will be held in Basra in November and will be contested by 12 national teams. Iraq has not played a competitive game on home soil for almost three decades.
Iraqi Football Association spokesman Kamel Zaghir told the AFP news agency that the country is “eager to organise a major footballing event and to show that it is ready at all levels”.