Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

The Basra Sport City stadium where Iraq beat Saudi Arabia in a friendly last week. (Wiki Commons Media)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

LONDON: Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said the new football stadium to be funded by Saudi Arabia will be situated in Baghdad and be able to host 100,000 spectators.
It was announced Tuesday that King Salman had offered to pay for the construction of a new arena following a telephone call with Al-Abadi on Monday evening, but no further details were given.
Al-Abadi used his weekly press conference to expand on details of the collaboration and how it arrived on the back of the first football match on Iraqi soil between the two sides in almost 40 years.
“I have received a phone call from the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz,” he said. “He hailed Iraqi’s victory (in the friendly match between the two sides last week) and expressed his preparedness and commitment to expanding positive relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at different levels — economical, commercial, communal, cultural, etc.— a t all levels that are of interest for the two countries.
“He also offered Saudi Arabia’s contribution to build a main stadium in Iraq that accommodates 100,000 people. We have welcomed the initiative and it was proposed today to the Cabinet.”
Al-Abadi said he has instructed his Cabinet to set up a task force to drive the build of the biggest stadium in Iraq, eclipsing the 65,000 venue at Basra Sports City.
“The Cabinet gave its directives to form a committee consisting of a group of key ministries concerned with this project,” Al-Abadi said. “The committee will consist of the Cabinet’s secretariat, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Higher Education, which includes the Center of Urban and Regional Planning
“It will handle developing the general framework for establishing the stadium, which will be the main stadium. 100,000 people is not a small number. We must pick a suitable location in Baghdad along with the stadium’s own additional facilities.
“The stadium will be established under the supervision and guidance of a higher Iraqi-Saudi coordinating council, which will specify the location and design in addition to following up on the project’s progress. The outcomes and progress of the committee’s work will be presented to the Cabinet.”


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”