Deadly stampede overshadows rare soccer joy in Iraq


Iraq won the men’s football Gulf Cup for the first time since 1988 with a 3-2 victory over Oman on Thursday. But the win was marred by a deadly stampede outside Basra International Stadium.

The debacle could also have ramifications for the country’s 2026 World Cup hopes.

As fans tried to enter the stadium hours before kickoff, there was a crash that killed at least two people. And injured dozens, a health official said. Witnesses blamed the fatal incident on what they said was poor organization of the tournament.

The deadly incident happened in the southern city of Basra as spectators gathered. To watch the finals of the first international soccer tournament. To be held in Iraq in four decades. The official Iraqi news agency said some of the 60 people injured outside. The Basra International Stadium were in critical condition.

“There was no coordination. A lot of people came here but alas, there was no organization,” said Hasan Hadi. He arrived in Basra from the southern Iraqi city of Najaf three days before the final game and was denied entry.

He said riot police beat some spectators with clubs to push them away from the gates. When the stampede broke out.

Ambulance driver Saddam Hassan said people of all ages stood by the metal fence. At the entrance to Iraq where the stampede took place. He said his ambulance took the injured to hospital with “bruises and broken bones”.

Iraq’s interior ministry urged people without tickets to the final match to leave the area.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani, who arrived in Basra on Thursday. Urged the public to help the authorities “show the final match of the 25th edition of the Gulf Cup in the most beautiful form”.

The tournament, which began on January 6, saw several incidents, including. A commotion inside the VIP section that led to a Kuwaiti prince walking away. From attending the opening match. It is not clear what caused the chaos but Kuwaiti media said it was “bad organization“.

The tournament included teams from six Gulf Cooperation Council. Countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – as well as Yemen and Iraq.

The stampede was a blow to the hosts as the big prize of hosting the 2026 World Cup qualifiers appeared to be within Iraq’s reach.

Because of security concerns, has Iraq staged only two World Cup qualifiers since the US-led invasion in 2003. Against Jordan in the northern city of Erbil in 2011 and Hong Kong eight years later in Basra.

In neighboring countries such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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