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Iraq bidding to lift ban on home friendlies

Oct 3, 2013, 8:15 PM EDT

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After playing its home games abroad for most of its existence, the Iraqi Football Association has lobbied FIFA to once again lift its ban on hosting matches in Iraq. The item is on the agenda for discussion at the FIFA Executive Committee meeting on Thursday and Friday in Zurich.

On March 26, more than 50,000 fans showed up to Al-Shaab Stadium in Baghdad to watch Iraq defeat Syria, 2-1, in a friendly. Soon after, FIFA imposed a ban on home matches because of increased security risks.

The decision was a reversal on the decision in March to lift the sanction, which had been in place since 2011, but it is nothing new for the nation. Since the 1980s, Iraq has had to play “home” games across its borders because of various conflicts in the nation.

Iraq failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after finishing last in its five-team group in the fourth round of Asian qualification. Its only win of the stage came in a 1-0 defeat of Jordan, a home game played in Doha, Qatar.

The last World Cup qualifier played on Iraqi soil was a 2-0 loss to Jordan on Sept. 2, 2011, in front of 24,000 fans at Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil.

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