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Kuala Lumpur: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa today received His Excellency Mr Abed Al-Hussein Abed Al Rida Abttan, Minister of Youth and Sports of Iraq, and the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) President Abed-Alkhaliq Masoud Ahmed at the AFC House.

Following the recent successful organisation of international friendly matches in Basra and Karbala, the discussions between Sheikh Salman and the visiting Iraqi dignitaries focused mainly on the lifting of the current ban on Iraq hosting international matches on its territory.

“We would definitely like to see international competitions, including AFC events, coming back to Iraq. The AFC will always be there to support the Iraqi football family,” Shaikh Salman reassured the delegation.

“Iraq has been consistently outstanding at all levels of the game and since the security situation has improved a lot, we are optimistic that international football will stage a big comeback in Iraq very soon.”

Shaikh Salman recognised the Minister of Youth and Sports’ commitment to Iraqi football.

“We are very thankful to H.E. Abed Al-Hussein for committing personally to bringing international football back to Iraq.

“The AFC will be sending a fact-finding mission shortly to visit several other venues in Iraq, and based on this security report, we will make a decision and coordinate with FIFA to consider Iraq’s request to host international matches and competitions in other cities,” he added.

In May 2017, the FIFA Council lifted the ban on Iraq to host international friendlies in three venues: Arbil, Basra and Karbala. 

The AFC President also recognised the role played by the Iraqi government in the building of infrastructure and the provision of necessary guarantees.

Despite the partial ban, Iraq is concentrating on increasing the number of stadiums, with eight stadiums of different capacity under construction in the country at present.

Iraq played their first international match against Jordan in June 2017 at Basra after the lifting of the ban. Also, a friendly match with FIFA legends was organised in September 2017 in Basra.

Photos: AFC