Today the prime minister of Iraq ordered more effort be put into the completion of Minaa Stadium in Basra. The venue should be ready in October if Iraq is to host the 25th Gulf Cup.
Earlier today Iraq’s prime minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi visited several construction sites in Basra, most importantly the new Minaa Stadium in the heart of the city. He personally ordered “doubling of the work” in order for the stadium to be ready in October.
At present the progress is estimated to be app. 80%. After a decade under construction this can hardly be considered impressive but it’s entirely possible to meet the October deadline. It seems this date is final as the stadium is supposed to host the 25th edition of Gulf Cup in December.
Will the tournament be held in Iraq after all?
The 8-team competition was awarded to Iraq in 2019, with no other bidder running. However, Iraq’s readiness remains in doubt. Not long ago Qatar (host of the previous edition) offered to take over as hosts but by the end of March the country apologised and reaffirmed support for Iraq as the hosts.
Still, as of today there’s no schedule for the Gulf Cup. Decision is expected by the end of April, during a videoconference by members of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF). According to Al Bayan News, the entire competition might be rescheduled for next year.
Where in Iraq will the Gulf Cup take place?
Because it’s an 8-team competition, there are only 15 games to be held. While enough to be a nationwide event in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar or the UAE, in the scale of Iraq it’s more of a regional competition. The south-eastern directorate of Basra was selected to hold all games.
The main venue seems clear: the imposing Basrah International Stadium, able to hold 65,000 people. Its secondary stadium with 10,000 seats is named as another host. Between them in terms of scale is the new Minaa Stadium with 30,000 seats, the only stadium to be centrally located (the main football complex is in the southern outskirts).
Why is Minaa Stadium so delayed?
Designed by Americans, the new multi-use stadium will replace the historical ground by that name. When ground was broken in 2011, it was considered part of the grand reconstruction of Iraq. Back then it was hoped to be delivered in 2013. However, along with the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, the country was destabilised by insurgency, then war and economic collapse.
Although Basra lies far from the epicentre of the above issues and didn’t suffer significantly during the war, all sports projects were de-prioritised during the crises, which meant funding drying up. As a result, construction of Minaa Stadium slowed down significantly already after a few months, by 2014 the site was virtually abandoned. Only by 2019 construction was restarted.
At present the investment is indeed advanced to roughly 80%, having seen the cable roof’s big lift completed in early 2021. Now seat installation is being finalised. Before today’s visit by the prime minister, on Wednesday a delegation of AGCFF toured the stadium. Overall, the delegation supposedly were rather satisfied, though final evaluation will not come until the videoconference. We should note that the third stadium isn’t Basra’s only issue, medical and hotel infrastructure are also among problematic areas.
Author: Michał Karaś