Friday 06 January 2023, 16:30

FIFA President attends opening match of the 25th Arab Gulf Cup in Basra

  • Gianni Infantino watches Iraq take on Oman

  • Iraq staging the tournament for the first time since 1979

  • Tournament is another landmark for the IFA

Gianni Infantino has attended the opening match of the 25th Arab Gulf Cup 2023 in Basra as Iraq stages the tournament for the first time since 1979. After being welcomed by the Prime Minster of Iraq, Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani, Iraq Football Association (IFA) President Adnan Dirjal, and the Minster of Youth and Sports, Ahmed Al-Mubarqa, the FIFA President watched the opening ceremony at the Basra International Stadium before seeing the hosts draw 0-0 with Oman in the opening match. The game was preceded by a minute´s silence.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also taking part in the eight-team tournament which runs until Jan. 19. The entire tournament is being played in the city of Basra with the Al-Minaa Olympic Stadium as the second of the two venues.

“It was great to have attended the opening ceremony and the opening game of the 2023 Arab Gulf Cup in Basra, Iraq between Iraq and Oman,” said the FIFA President.

“I am so happy that competitive football has finally returned to Iraq, a real football loving country, even more so with such a prestigious tournament. Football is happiness and it gives hope to so many people and in this case to an entire country. The full stadium and fantastic atmosphere in Basra tonight is a testimony to that. I would like to congratulate Iraq, the Iraq Football Association and the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation for the warm welcome and the all the organisational efforts. Tournaments like this are fundamental to making football truly global and showing that football unites the world. FIFA has to be and is present!” 

“While this is a moment of joy for the Iraqi people and the teams involved, we are also reminded that world football is also united in cherishing the memories on the field provided by Pelé and Gianluca Vialli who both passed away in recent days. I am sure football fans everywhere will keep these two wonderful players and outstanding personalities in their thoughts, as it was significantly the case today during the minute of silence ahead of the opening game of the Arab Gulf Cup.”

Due to the security situation, Iraq has rarely been able to stage competitive matches in the country during the last 20 years. The most recent to take place in the country was a World Cup qualifier at home to Hong Kong in 2019.

In 2021, a new era began for the IFA when Adnan Dirjal, a former defender who made over 100 appearances for the national team between 1979 and 1990, was elected as its president. Since then, and with support from the FIFA Regional Office in Dubai, the IFA has been working to implement new projects and improve results on the pitch. The government of Iraq, a football-loving country, also has major plans to improve sports infrastructure and build stadiums around the country.

Iraq made their only appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 1986 and have performed consistently in recent editions of the AFC Asian Cup, reaching the knockout stages of every tournament since 1996 and winning the title in 2007.