Socceroos To Play Iraq In Sydney On Easter
The Premier of NSW, Mr Bob Carr today announced that the Socceroos would play Iraq in Sydney – the first time the two countries have met at senior international level for more than 30 years.
The Premier of NSW, Mr Bob Carr today announced that the Socceroos would play Iraq in Sydney - the first time the two countries have met at senior international level for more than 30 years. The match will be played on Easter Saturday (26 March 2005) at Telstra Stadium - kick off at 7pm. Iraq (equal 44) - who made the semi-finals of the Olympic Football Tournament at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games - is currently ranked 14 places ahead of Australia (58) by FIFA. Mr Carr made the announcement today at the Sydney Opera House, where he was joined by the Minister for Tourism and Sport, Ms Sandra Nori, Football Federation Australia CEO, Mr John O-Neill AO, Socceroos Ahmad Elrich (pictured above) and David Zdrilic and President Iraqi Migrants Council, Mr Kassim Abood. "This historic match will help grow and strengthen the bond between our two countries," Mr Carr said. "It will also be a great chance for local fans to see our best players turn out in the green and gold in their own backyard." Australia and Iraq met at senior level twice in March 1973 - as part of Australia-s successful 1974 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. On that occasion, Australia won 3-1 in Sydney with the other match ending 0-0 in Melbourne. The two nations also met in the quarter-finals of the Athens 2004 Olympic Football Tournament with Iraq winning 1-0. Mr O-Neill said barring injury a full-strength team would turn out for Australia. "This is a match of national significance," Mr O-Neill said. "This year we embark on a campaign to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years and this match is a key part of that preparation." "Iraq has been through much turmoil and we are delighted that we will be helping to rebuild Iraqi football." Tickets for the match will go on-sale the week commencing 14 February with a family of four able to attend for around $50. Mr Carr said the match was part of the State Government-s ongoing commitment to football. "We want to help to promote, grow and develop the world game in Australia," Mr Carr said. "That is why last May I launched the "Freedom and Friendship Cup" between the Socceroos and Turkey. "Last October I also launched the Johnny Warren Soccer Academy - a $1.5 million State Government initiative that will enable our best young players to access the best possible training at home." Easter Saturday-s match would be a key part of preparations for both countries for forthcoming qualification matches for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. Mr Carr said the match was great opportunity for the Australian - Iraqi community to come out and support their team. In NSW local government areas, the highest proportion of Iraqi born residents includes Fairfield and Liverpool. According to 2001 census data, there are 24,831 Australian residents who were born in Iraq. Of this total, 63 per cent (15,748) reside in NSW. A recent Sydney Morning Herald article (15/1/05) noted there had been a large influx since the 2001 census with the number of Iraqi citizens now estimated at more than 100,000 people. Sydney-s Iraqi population is unofficially estimated at between 55,000-80,000 persons. Ms Nori said the match would become a key component of the Easter in Sydney festival - to be launched next month.