FIFA has denied Iraq from playing their home matches in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at home. Reportedly FIFA has ordered Iraqi Football Association (IFA) to “select a neutral ‘home’ venue outside its territory for all the preliminary competition matches of the FIFA World Cup 2022.” The letter is dated July 26, 2019.
Iraq is in Group C of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round along with IR Iran, Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Bahrain. According to the schedule, Iraq is to play Bahrain in their opener away on September 5 and then face Hong Kong in a home match on October 10.
But FIFA’s stand will come as a huge blow for the country’s World Cup Qualifiers campaign. They might be forced to play their home games thousands of miles away from their supporters and home.
The letter from FIFA acting deputy secretary-general Mattias Grafstrom reads, “Please be informed that the FIFA Council’s decision of 16 March 2018 confirmed that FIFA official matches could not be held in Iraq unless a risk assessment by FIFA allows this temporarily explicitly. This is not the case at present. The security risk remains high and has deteriorated rather than improved.”
Iraqi football pundit Hassanin Mubarak, however, has suggested that FIFA’s latest decision contradicts the very statements made by FIFA president Gianni Infantino last year. He had said that three cities (Erbil, Basra, and Karbala) in Iraq will be allowed to host international matches. He had added that the competition organizer, the AFC, would have to take the decision but FIFA was fine with Iraq playing at home.
Iraqi FA had reportedly recommended Barsa as the host city for their World Cup Qualifier matches.