BAGHDAD – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has promised to build Iraq a football stadium in Baghdad capable of holding about 135,000 people and making it the biggest in the world.
King Salman’s offer was made in a telephone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday, following Iraq’s 4-1 defeat of Saudi Arabia in a friendly – the first between the two countries for nearly four decades.
Prior to the game, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman promised to build Iraq a stadium if they won on February 28.
Despite being massive underdogs, the Iraqi XI ran out comprehensive winners, thanks to two goals Muhanad Ali, one from Emad Mohsin Majeed and a Saeed Awadh Al Yami own goal.
Saudi Arabia themselves have qualified for this summer’s World Cup in Russia – while Iraq missed out.
Al-Abadi revealed the news saying: “I have received a phone call from the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz. He hailed Iraqi’s victory [in the friendly match] and expressed his preparedness and commitment to expanding positive relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at different levels.”
The two leaders also discussed how to enhance and strengthen cooperation between their countries, and the Iraqi-Saudi Joint Coordination Council, a body created last October to improve strategic relations and help rebuild devastated areas retaken from militants in Iraq.
The phone call was the latest indication of improved relations between the two countries, which have been at loggerheads for decades, starting with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Saudi Arabia is wooing Baghdad as part of an effort to stem the growing regional influence of Iran, while Iraq is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with Riyadh.
Currently, the largest football ground in Iraq is the 65,000-seater venue at Basra Sports City.