• FIFA chief Infantino to miss Iraq-Saudi Arabia match


    BAGHDAD: FIFA president Gianni Infantino will not attend Wednesday’s (Thursday in Manila) international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra, despite an invitation from local football authorities.

    “The president will not come to Iraq,” a FIFA spokesperson in Geneva told AFP on Tuesday by telephone.

    Iraqi officials had invited Infantino in the hope of convincing world football’s governing body that the country, battered by years of violence and conflict, is fit to host international fixtures.

    Gianni Infantino AFP PHOTO

    FIFA must decide next month whether to lift a ban preventing Iraq from hosting competitive international matches.

    The country has not played full internationals on home turf ever since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait that sparked an international embargo.

    The ban, covering all but local matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 that 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 to reinstate it.

    Iraq in December declared victory over the Islamic State jihadist group following a three-year battle, and FIFA finally relaxed the ban, allowing international friendlies at stadiums in Arbil, Basra and Karbala.



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