Saturday, 08 October 2011, 12:10 GMT
Iraq chooses Qatar for its home matches
By The Globe

FIFA stands firm on ban

After Iraq was banned from hosting international soccer matches, including qualifiers for the upcoming 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup, due to security concerns, FIFA, soccer's governing body, asked Iraq to choose a third country as a location to hold its remaining preliminary matches for the Olympic Games in London 2012 and all preliminary matches for the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

The third country could not be Australia, United Arab Emirates or Uzbekistan, as they are opponents of Iraq in the qualifying matches for the Olympics. To respond to the FIFA?s request and provide details of its chosen location, It sent a letter to FIFA saying it has selected Qatar as a neutral venue. Iraq already received Qatar's acceptance to host its national and Olympic teams.

?The Qatar Football Association will host the official matches of the Iraq senior national team and the Olympic team in the qualifications for the FIFA 2014 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games,? the statement posted on the QFA website said.

Francois Hariri Stadium in the Kurdish capital city of Erbil, in the autonomous province of Iraqi Kurdistan, has been used on numerous occasions to host international matches, but FIFA decided it would be better for the matches to take place outside of Iraq.

Iraq previously hosted games at the Francois Hariri Stadium, most recently on Sept. 2 when it hosted the Asian Football Championships finals between Iraq and Jordan.

The organizing committee made the decision for several reasons. In particular, the Iraq vs. Jordan match was delayed 10 minutes because of a power outage, and the stadium appeared to have significantly more spectators than its capacity of 12,400. The Kurdistan border bombardment by Turkey and Iran is another security concern behind barring the Hariri stadium from holding international matches.

Despite all the stadium shortcomings, Nawzad Qader, an Iraqi Football Association member thinks the current Asian Football Association head, who is a Chinese, is behind the ban on Iraq holding matches.
"Since China's football team isn't doing well in the FIFA qualifiers and its next match will be against Iraq at home, the current AFC head tried to make problems for Iraq so the match wasn't at home," said Qader

Qader says IFA is trying to persuade FIFA to rescind the ban.
Iraq is currently third in Group A of Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, behind Jordan and China, but ahead of Singapore. It's next game is in Shenzhen, China, on Oct. 11.

The country is also last in Group B of Asian qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics, behind Uzbekistan, Australia and the UAE.