Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al Sudani celebrates football team's victory in Arabian Gulf Cup

It is the fourth time Iraq have won contest since it first took place in 1970

Iraq's national football team captain Jalal Hassan (C) lifts the Gulf Cup trophy as Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani (L) and football federation president Adnan Derjal (R) applaud.  AFP
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani has granted the nation's football team diplomatic passports and plots in Baghdad for winning the Arabian Gulf Cup.

Hosts Iraq were crowned champions on Thursday after a 3-2 victory over Oman at Basra International Stadium in country’s south. It is the fourth time Iraq has won the Gulf Cup since it first took place in 1970.

Mr Al Sudani threw a banquet in the team’s honour, with guests from the cabinet and the President of Kurdistan Region, Nechervan Barzani, who was in Baghdad for political discussions, was also invited.

The prime minister “hailed the national team’s victory in the tournament and their performance and sporting spirit in all their matches,” said a statement issued by his office.

“With today’s achievement, the government’s goals within its agenda for the sports sector will be reviewed and expanded in order,” it added.

The last time the biennial Gulf Cup was held in Iraq was in 1979, when the hosts were crowned champions. Iraq also won in 1984 and 1988.

The event features teams from the Gulf Co-operation Council countries — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and UAE — as well as Iraq and Yemen.

The most recent event was held in 2019 in Qatar and was won by Bahrain.

On Friday, thousands of Iraqis packed Baghdad's streets to greet the team as they travelled from Baghdad International Airport to the Grand Celebrations Square where the public victory celebrations took place.

As the Iraqi national team lifted the trophy on Thursday, Mr Al Sudani tweeted: “The cup is Iraqi. We are proud of our lions.”

In a separate statement, he said hosting of the 25th Gulf Cup would mark the beginning of a new chapter for the country.

“The Gulf Cup is a message to international sports institutions that Iraq is a safe country, that it has the capacity and capabilities enabling it to attract tournaments,” he said.

He urged football governing body Fifa to allow Iraq to play World Cup qualifiers on home soil.

“The simplest message that the international federation could give to the Iraqi fans is lifting the international ban on Iraqi stadiums,” he added.

Hosting the tournament was a strong sign of recovery after decades of war, political isolation and instability, which prompted Fifa to impose a ban on hosting international matches that was partially lifted only last year.

Iraqi fans celebrate Gulf Cup win — in pictures

Updated: January 22, 2023, 4:40 AM