Iraq ready to host Gulf Cup
Iraq said on Wednesday it is ready to host the 2015 Gulf Cup of Nations, with new facilities almost ready for the first football tournament to be held in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.
The 2013 tournament, currently being held in Manama, was scheduled to take place in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. It was moved due to security concerns but Iraqis said the decision was politically motivated.
"Security and safety will be ensured," Essam al-Diwan, deputy sports minister, said in Manama.
"We will work on organizing the best Gulf Cup tournament ever to be held. We trust our brothers in the Gulf will back us, and we got support promises from the heads of sports federations," he added.
Al-Diwan said the new Sports City in Basra will be inaugurated in March, along with six hotels to accommodate teams and visitors.
Eight teams split into two groups competing in the 21st edition of the Gulf Cup of Nations in Bahrain. Launched in 1970, the tournament is not officially recognized by the ruling football body FIFA, but it has risen in stature to become the oil-rich region's key competition.
Iraq will play against Kuwait on Wednesday, their second match in the tournament. Yemen will meet Saudi Arabia shortly after.
On Sunday, Iraq clinched three points in a stunning 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
The United Arab Emirates became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals on Tuesday after defeating Bahrain 2-1.