World Cup qualifier: Iran to play Iraq at neutral venue

November 6, 2019 - 11:31

TEHRAN - World football’s governing body, FIFA, has asked Iraq to find a neutral venue to host its upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

The anti-government demonstrations in Iraq have gripped the capital, Baghdad, and swept through several other cities in the country's south.

In a letter to the Iraqi Football Association (IFA), FIFA said it has been “closely monitoring the safety and security situation in Iraq” for the past few weeks, where anti-government demonstrations are rampant.

It added that due to the “significant deterioration of the overall security situation,” Iraq’s upcoming matches against Iran and Bahrain, scheduled to be played at the Basra Sports City Stadium, must be relocated to a “neutral venue outside Iraq.”

The move “will enable all interested parties to focus their attention on delivering both matches successfully within a safe and secure environment,” the FIFA statement read.

Iraq are set to play Iran on Nov. 14 before they host Bahrain five days later. FIFA has given the IFA until Nov. 7 to find a suitable venue for the qualifiers.

The request comes as a blow to the progress of Iraqi football. In August, FIFA allowed Iraq to play international qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup at home following a decision to lift a three-decade ban on the country for hosting international matches.

Iran are third in Group C with six points. Iraq lead the table with seven points and Bahrain sit second on goal difference.