International football back at Malaab Al-Shaab


Tuesday will witness only the second international game at the Al-Shaab Stadium since the end of the 2003 War, when Iraq takes on Syria.

The nations played each other in the last friendly game at the Al-Shaab before the start of the hostilities, which Iraq won 2-0 and 2-1 respectively. Current players Nour Sabri and Younis Mahmoud were involved in those two games.

In the summer of 2009, Iraq played two matches against Palestine, the first in Arbil and the second at the Al-Shaab. The game in Baghdad, played in front of a packed crowd of 50,000 fans, had one or two ‘administrative errors’ (using the generic term meted out by FA officials to the local press), kicked off late after the heavy-handed entourage of the political patrons of the game, took their time to clear the pitch while the half-time break lasted 23 minutes!

The power cuts, crowd problems and security issues in the World Cup qualifier with Jordan in Arbil in 2011 was the main reason for Iraq being forced to play their ‘home’ matches in FIFA and AFC competitions on foreign soil.

The same kind of ‘administrative errors’ could cost the Iraq FA the opportunity to stage World Cup or Asian Cup qualifiers in Baghdad, which is what majority of Iraqi football fans hope for.

After FIFA opened the door for Iraq to stage home internationals on Thursday after a partial lifting of the international ban, everyone involved in Iraqi football will want to show that an international football match could be held in Baghdad with no security problems.

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