Several former members of Turkey’s national football team arrived in Baghdad on Friday to play a friendly match with their Iraqi counterparts.
The match is also intended to show support for Iraqi calls to lift an ongoing football ban in the city, where violence — especially car bombings — has become commonplace in recent years.
“We are delighted to see these Turkish footballers come to Baghdad to show their support for lifting the ban,” Iraqi Sports Minister Abdul-Hussein Abtaan told Anadolu Agency.
“I extend my thanks to all of them,” he added.
Abtaan went on to point out that FIFA, the football world governing body, had already lifted similar match bans in Iraq’s Basra, Erbil and Karbala provinces.
The ban in the capital, however, still remains in effect.
“Footballers will also come from Arab countries, but we wanted our Turkish counterparts to come first,” Abtaan said.
Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz, for his part, said Turkey would continue showing support for Iraq’s struggling sports sector.
“Iraqis love sports,” he said. “Our former national players are here to show their support for lifting FIFA’s ongoing ban on matches in Baghdad.”
Yildiz went on to note that the planned friendly match would be the first time for Turkish footballers to play in a stadium in the Iraqi capital.
Bulent Korkmaz, one of the visiting Turkish footballers, said he was “very happy to be in Iraq”, stressing his keenness to see the Baghdad ban lifted.