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IRAQ LIFT KHALEEJI ZAIN 25

BASRA: Iraq lift the Arabian Gulf Cup (Khaleeji Zain 25) on Thursday after winning the final against Oman by three goals to two. Basra International Stadium witnessed dramatic events amid a large presence of spectators, with the game heading to extra time. Iraq won the fourth title in its history in the tournament after an absence of 35 years, after it won the title three times previously in 1979, 1984 and 1988, while Oman won two titles in 2009 and 2017.

Hours before the Gulf Cup final, one person was killed and dozens injured when a stampede broke out outside the stadium. Thousands of fans, many without tickets, had gathered outside the 65,000-seat stadium in Iraq’s main southern city of Basra since dawn in the hope of watching the final. “There has been one death and dozens of slight injuries,” a medic said. An interior ministry official gave the same toll. “A large number of fans, many of them without tickets, had gathered since first light to try to get in,” the official said.

BASRA: Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani (second left) celebrates with the national football team as they lift the trophy after winning the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup (Khaleeji Zain 25) final against Oman at Basra International Stadium on Jan 19, 2023. – AFP

An AFP photographer inside the stadium said the turnstiles were still closed when the crush occurred. Sirens blared as ambulances arrived to ferry the injured to hospital. Images posted on social media showed a sea of people outside the stadium. Fans began arriving again in the afternoon as calm was restored to Basra International Stadium, said interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan. The gates were closed after fans entered the arena, many of them waving Iraqi flags ahead of the match that went ahead Thursday evening.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani had earlier chaired a meeting with key ministers and the governor of Basra to discuss “special measures for the Gulf Cup final”, his office said. The Iraqi leader headed to Basra to oversee the situation on the ground, it added. The army called on fans to heed the instructions of security force personnel on access to the stadium so the championship could be “wrapped up in a civilized fashion that does honor to Iraq”. – Agencies

 

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