World football legends play exhibition match in Basra

Legends, which included Spain's Michel Salgado, beat Iraq team 5-4 in front of 65,000 fans
Hernan Crespo retired Argentine footballer Younis Mahmoud retired Iraqi footballer and Michel Salgado retired Spanish footballer pose for a picture with the Iraqi flag at the stadium in Basra ahead of a match between International footballers and Iraqi footballers Photo: HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALIAFPGetty Images
By AFP
Sun 10 Sep 2017 08:05 AM

A team of footballing legends including Spain's Michel Salgado and Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi beat an Iraqi side 5-4 in an exhibition match in Basra on Saturday.

Some 65,000 football-starved spectators in Iraq, which in 2013 became subject to a FIFA ban because of continuing violence, filled the stadium for the game.

The visitors included Argentine Hernan Crespo, Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, Brazilians Zico and Rivaldo and Portuguese player Deco.

Speaking last month, former Real Madrid right-back Salgado said he hoped the match would help people forget for at least 90 minutes "their hard conditions of life".

In the crowded stands amid a sea of Iraqi flags on Saturday, spectators urged on an Iraqi side that was unable to withstand attacks from players such as the Netherlands' Patrick Kluivert who hammered home a hat-trick.

Around 3,000 members of the security forces were mobilised for the game in the southern port city and Iraqi football stronghold, officials said.

In 2013, FIFA banned Iraq from hosting international matches after the death of a football coach killed by security forces and jihadist attacks on venues broadcasting games.

The ban was lifted in May, but conditional on the holding of matches in just three stadiums in Iraq, one of which was Basra.

"This is a historic day for our city," said 20-year-old match-goer Mohammed Jaafar on Saturday.

For those wanting to see the team of international superstars, Iraq's sports ministry reduced the original ticket price of 25,000 Iraqi dinars (about $20) to 10,000 dinars to ensure a full house.

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