FIFA lifted its three -decade ban on Iraq hosting international football on Friday with the cities of Arbil , Basra and Karbala given the go -ahead to stage official matches.
“ We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Arbil , Basra and Karbala , ” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters after a meeting of the FIFA Council in Bogota.
The three cities had been allowed to organise friendlies in the last year provided the security situation was “ stable ” .
Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra.
“ FIFA has given the green light for the resumption but the organisers of the championship must take the final decision, ” added Infantino .
FIFA added that it cannot “ yet ” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organise matches in the capital of Baghdad, but Infantino promised that the city ’s application would continue to be studied .
For years, Iraq has been busily building stadiums and pressurising stars and the sport ’ s governing bodies to help them return to the international fold .
Friday ’s decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28 , their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years .
It was watched by Asian Football Confederation head Salman bin Ibrahim Al- Khalifa who said “ the time had come ” to end the three- decade ban.
Iraq has not played full 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 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein .
It was briefly lifted in 2012 , but a power outage during an Iraq – Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it .
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