A tragic incident occurred ahead of the Gulf Cup final match between the host and Omani national teams scheduled for Thursday January 19 at 19:00 local time. Crowds of fans gathered outside Basra International Stadium in a huge crush began to trample each other. There are fatalities and many injured.
A scene of grim chaos was taking place ahead of the final of the Arabian Gulf Cup tournament, which took place in Basra between 6 and 19 January. On Thursday, fans began to gather in front of Basra International Stadium from early morning. There was a lot of interest in the match, as it was the first major football competition in Iraq in years. In addition, it was to feature the home team. Even before the match itself, more than 90 % of the tickets had been sold, but there were many people without passes among all those who arrived, outside the 65 000 capacity stadium.
© engineer uday
Thousands of bitter fans who had not managed to buy tickets tried to get into the venue, but only ticket holders were allowed inside. The closing of the gates resulted in a huge crowd in the square outside the arena and it started to get really dangerous. People began to push each other, which caused panic and led to tragedy. As a result of the incident, four people died and more than 80 were injured. The number of casualties could still rise, as some of the injured are in critical condition. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed al-Sudani, travelled to the scene of the tragedy to hold an emergency meeting with a group of ministers and the governor of the region.
It was initially reported that the final match would be cancelled, but it was eventually decided to proceed. The Iraqi national team won against Oman after extra time 3:2, but what happened before the game cast a shadow over what should have been a true football celebration, especially for a country with such a difficult recent history.
This year's Gulf Cup was organised in Iraq for the first time since 1979. The sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime, and then the unstable situation in the country due to the US intervention and the war against ISIS, meant that no football competition had been staged in the country for decades. We should add that the Gulf Cup was originally scheduled to take place in Basra back in 2012.
The images of the tournament before the tragedy may have been gratifying. Here was a football competition again in Iraq years later and the enthusiasm of the fans gathered in the stadiums was evident. For the record, let us add that the second arena of the cup was Al-Minaa Olympic Stadium. The pre-final horror show that the city was not infrastructurally prepared to host the tournament.