Football diplomacy

June 15, 2017 14:02

Voices from the excited atmosphere at the first football match in four years in Basra and how it is connected to the developing Qatar crisis

The Khalifa International Stadium

The Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in May. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The morning of June 1, Ali, a young student from Basra, Iraq, woke up early. It was the first Thursday of Ramadan, and it seemed like the entire city turned up for Sukhoor – the last meal before dawn prayers and the day of fast. But for Ali, this wasn’t just a normal Ramadan day.

The day was special because for the first time in more than four years, an international football match was to be played in Iraq. FIFA, the football world governing body, has banned international matches in the country since 2013, due to the security situation in Iraq and the ongoing war with Islamic State. Following tenacious Iraqi diplomatic efforts to show that the country is safe again for playing ball, the ban was lifted two months ago, and Ali looked forward for watching Jordan’s national team enter the local stadium for a friendly match.


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