Saudi offers to fund new Iraq football stadium

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Saudi Arabia has offered to fund a new football stadium in Iraq, as FIFA prepares to decide whether to lift its ban on Iraq  hosting competitive international matches.

The offer came in a telephone call between King Salman and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday evening, the prime minister’s office said. It provided no further details about the cost of the stadium or where it might be located. It follows an international friendly between the two countries in Iraq’s third city Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years.

The king described the game, which Iraq won 4-1 in front of a capacity 60,000 crowd, as a “success”, Abadi’s office said.

It was watched by Asian Football Confederation head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa who said “the time has come” to end the three-decade ban on Iraq hosting competitive international matches.

FIFA is due to decide on March 16. The country 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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