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FIFA clears Iraq to host World Cup qualifying games in Basra

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In this June 1, 2017 file photo, Iraq, in green, in action against Jordan, in red, during their friendly football match in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

In this June 1, 2017 file photo, Iraq, in green, in action against Jordan, in red, during their friendly football match in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA says the southern Iraqi city of Basra can host the national team’s return to playing World Cup qualifying games at home.

Security concerns since the 1980s have forced Iraq to host most qualifiers in neutral countries. Iraq played “home” games in Iran, Jordan and Malaysia in a failed attempt to reach the 2018 tournament.

FIFA says “following a security assessment by a FIFA delegation” Basra can stage games in qualifying for the 2022 edition.

Iraq hosts Hong Kong on Oct. 10, likely at the 65,000-capacity Basra Sports City stadium.

Top-ranked Iran visits on Nov. 14.

Iraq’s group in the current phase of qualifying also includes Bahrain and Cambodia.

Amid widespread pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong against China’s rule, FIFA says it is “closely monitoring the situation” ahead of the national team’s Sept. 10 qualifier against Iran.

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