Middle East

Gulf Cup soccer final in Iraq to take place despite stampede

Celine Alkhaldi, Mostafa Salem and Aqeel Najim,

Abu Dhabi and BaghdadCNN — 

A Gulf Cup final match between Iraq and Oman will take place in Basra on Thursday as scheduled, Iraqi soccer officials said, despite a deadly stampede outside the stadium just hours earlier.

“The match between the Iraqi and Omani national teams will take place as scheduled,” the Iraqi Football Association said. “We call on honorable fans to refrain from coming to the match stadium because the stands are completely full.”

Earlier on Thursday, a stampede near the Jaza’a Al Nakhla Stadium – where Iraq and Oman were expected to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup final – killed one person and injured at least 60 others, state-run Iraq News Agency (INA) reported.

Thousands of fans had gathered in and around the stadium hours before the kickoff in an effort to watch the match.

After the stampede, Iraq’s interior ministry said that the stadium gates are now “closed” and that no more fans would be allowed to enter, reported the INA.

Iraqi police asked non-ticket holders to refrain from heading to the stadium to avoid congestion, INA said.

“The numbers of fans are very large, and we do not want there to be cases of suffocation, and pressure to build on security forces,” Iraqi police spokesman Sa’ad Ma’an said in a statement published on INA.

Defense ministry spokesperson General Yahya Rasoul called on fans to instead gather at entertainment zones where the match will be played on large screens.

This is the first time Iraq has hosted the Gulf Cup since 1979, when it was held in the capital Baghdad.

A video sent to CNN showed fans seated inside the stadium after the stampede. Seating areas hosting Iraqi fans were completely full, while the section designated to Omani fans was empty, pending their arrival later in the day.

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