The Iraqi national football team beat Jordan 1-0 Wednesday in a friendly match that is aimed to lift a ban imposed on Iraq by the world football governing body FIFA since 2013.
FIFA lifted the ban in early May on international friendlies giving Iraq a period of three month probation during which it will assess whether Iraq is ready to host international matches on its soil, confined only to Erbil, in the north, Karbala in midland, and Basra in the south.
The Basra-hosted match attracted thousands of football fans. Local media reported that as many as 60, 000 people were in attendance, with Jordan’s coach quoted as saying that they are not used to play in such a packed stadium.
Misan al-Kaabi, a Basra resident shared his phone number ahead of the match on social media calling on the people of the province to attend the event and offering to share his place with the visitors.
Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein, also a former FIFA candidate, Iraq’s Sports Minister Abdul-Hussein Abtaan and the Basra Governor Majid al-Nasrawi attended the event amidst tightened security guarded by 5, 000 security members.
FIFA imposed a ban on international football matches in Iraq in 2013 after a coach was killed in clashes with security forces.
The worsening security situation in Iraq the following summer with the rise of ISIS also raised fears as to whether the security forces could protect the lives of the fans.
An ISIS-claimed attack targeting a football match in Babel killed at least 30 people in March 2016.
FIFA announced on May 9 that it lifted the ban on international friendlies “Provided that the situation remains stable and that several adjustments are brought into place in the proposed venues (Erbil, Basra and Karbala)”
In late May around 20,000 people attended a football match between two Iraqi clubs in the second-round match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), also with the aim of proving Iraq’s readiness to hold international matches at home.