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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Iraq to host first international football tournament in three decades

War-torn country to host West Asia Football Federation championship in November in southern city of Basra

Football fans hold a large banner bearing the colours of the Lebanese, right, and Iraqi flag during the AFC Cup match between Al Zawraa and Al Ahed at the Karbala Sports City Stadium on April 10, 2018. Mohammed Sawaf / AFP
Football fans hold a large banner bearing the colours of the Lebanese, right, and Iraqi flag during the AFC Cup match between Al Zawraa and Al Ahed at the Karbala Sports City Stadium on April 10, 2018. Mohammed Sawaf / AFP

Iraq is to host a West Asia Football Federation championship in the southern city of Basra in November, the first international tournament to be staged in the country since the 1990s.

Iraqi authorities late Sunday hailed WAFF's invitation to host the tournament, following the decision in March of world football's governing body Fifa to lift a three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football.

Iraq is now "eager to organise a major footballing event and to show that it is ready at all levels", Iraqi Football Association spokesman Kamel Zaghir told AFP, confirming Basra would host the tournament between 12 Arab countries.

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For years, Iraq has been busily building and upgrading stadiums and campaigning for its return to the international fold.

Fifa's decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28.

Iraq has not played competitive internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

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