FIFA back Iraq football for pitch performance


Iraqi National Team played first home game since 2013 Image: FIFA

International football has returned to Baghdad (Iraq) after eight years as the Iraq Football Association (IFA) ushers in a new era under the leadership of former international defender Adnan Dirjal who was recently elected as its President.

The ‘FIFA’ stated that in a hugely significant moment for the IFA, the Iraqi men’s national team beat Uganda 1-0 in a friendly played at the Al-Madina Stadium, the first international in the capital since a match against Liberia in 2013.

The Iraq Football Association is the governing body of football in Iraq, controlling the Iraqi national team and the Iraqi Premier League.

The Al-Madina International Stadium is a football stadium in Baghdad, Iraq. It is Iraq’s first-ever stadium solar power plant, and the second in the Middle East of its kind. Construction work for the stadium was completed on December 18th, 2019, and the facility can accommodate over 32,000 spectators.

The ‘FIFA’ further stated that the IFA has recently emerged from a normalization process, designed to bring it into line with FIFA’s good governance standards, and is now working with FIFA to devise a strategy for the next four-year cycle. The aim is to improve the IFA’s financial situation, implement new projects and improve results on the pitch.

As part of this process, the Dubai Regional office Development Manager Essam Al-Suhibani led a three-day visit to Iraq to discuss potential projects, with a further visit planned for February.

Observed Dirjal, “Help from FIFA is crucial for us at the moment. Iraq has a huge footballing potential, but to turn it into success we have to work hard. Recently, the IFA implemented a lot of changes, but for us it is just the beginning. We would like to thank FIFA for their constant support.”

Dirjal won over 100 caps for Iraq between 1979 and 1990, although he missed the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ – when Iraq made their only appearance at the finals – because of injury. He has coached a number of teams since his playing days.

IFA General Secretary Mohammad Farhan said that FIFA provided more than simply funding – “It should be understood that IFA does not only get substantial monetary support from FIFA via FIFA Forward program, but also quality strategic advice, a lot of suggestions on good governance, financial health of organization, technical issues, and many more aspects of football. In Iraq, football is undisputedly a number one sport, and FIFA help is needed to develop it in many directions.”

FIFA appointed the normalization committee in 2020 after all the members of the IFA’s Executive Committee resigned along with the General Secretary. Its work finished when the elections were held in September 2021.

Iraq have reached the knockout stages of every AFC Asian Cup tournament since 1996 and won the title in 2007 but have been frustrated in their attempts to reach a second World Cup, perhaps surprisingly given their results at the continental level.

The IFA were banned from hosting FIFA matches in 2013 due to the security situation in the country and, although this was briefly lifted in 2019 for a World Cup qualifier at home to Hong Kong, it had to be reimposed shortly afterwards.

In the meantime, they have continued to play some friendly matches at home, in the City of Basra but have had to stage World Cup qualifiers in Doha.

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