- Iraq will host the 25th edition of the Gulf Football Championship, as all the football teams of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in addition to Yemen and Iraq, will participate in the tournament, which will take place in the Iraqi province of Basra for the period between 6-19 January.
The tournament is organized every two years, as the first edition was launched in 1970 in Bahrain, while Qatar hosted the last edition in 2019. As for Iraq, it hosted the tournament for the first time in 1979, “Gulf 5” in the capital, Baghdad, where it was crowned with the title at that time.
Iraq's hosting of the tournament raises several questions about the repercussions of the Gulf 25 tournament on the reality of investment and economy in Basra, which is Iraq's sea gate, and the main source of crude oil that Iraq relies on selling to supplement the country's financial budget.
In front of the Corniche of Basra (Al-Jazeera Net)
What are the most important resources of Basra?
Basra Governorate is located in southern Iraq, with an area of approximately 19,000 square kilometers, and a population of nearly 3 million, according to the Iraqi Central Statistical Organization.
The oil engineer, Thaer Al-Khalidi, says that Basra's oil reserves amount to 93 billion barrels, and that it possesses 4 out of 6 giant oil fields in the world, pointing out in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, that Basra is the richest Iraqi province, and produces 70% of Iraq's oil.
Basra also enjoys a sea front on the Arabian Gulf, as it owns several ports.
Including: Al-Maqil, Umm Qasr, Khor Al-Zubayr, Abu Flus, Khor Al-Amaya, Basra Oil and Al-Faw.
Gulf 25 slogans in the streets of Basra (Al-Jazeera Net)
How big are the arrivals to attend the Gulf 25?
Since the tournament has not started, it is not possible to determine an exact number of arrivals to Basra, according to the director of Basra International Airport, Mohsen Abdul-Hussein, who added that the arrivals from the Gulf countries have actually started and are still continuing.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Abdul-Hussein added that Basra Airport is currently prepared to receive many planes from the Gulf countries, at a rate of 5,000 passengers per day.
The Iraqi government had announced two weeks ago that it would grant free entry visas to expatriates from the Gulf countries on the occasion of Basra hosting the Gulf Championship 25, in addition to the government's assertion that the expatriates could use land routes to enter Iraq, or through Basra International Airport.
Sinbad, the icon of the 25th Gulf Championship in the streets of Basra and Arabic coffee as an expression of hospitality (Al-Jazeera Net)
What is the expected revenue size?
The Director of Media of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Zahra Al-Jubouri, told Al-Jazeera Net that 35 hotels have been equipped in Basra to receive delegations and fans of the tournament, and that the ministry has developed various programs to facilitate the visit of arrivals to tourist sites in the province.
She adds that among these sites are: the Al-Ashar Corniche, the cultural and historical museums, the Shanasheel, and recreational places, in addition to organizing river tours in the Shatt Al-Arab, visiting Al-Maqal University, the Dome of the Ports, the Adam tree in Qurna, and the orchards of Abu Al-Khasib, as well as visits to the house of the poet Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab. And the marshes of Basra, but it did not reveal the amount of tourism revenues expected from the tournament.
For his part, the director of the media office of the Football Association, Yusuf Faal, confirms that Basra has prepared the Palm Trunk Stadium (with a capacity of 60,000 spectators), and the Olympic Port Stadium (with a capacity of 30,000 spectators), commenting, “The Federation decided that the ticket be for two matches in the group stage that will be held in One day within the same group and in the same stadium," pointing out that the total revenue from the number of tickets is expected to reach 10.8 million dollars.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, he added, "Tickets for the semi-final and final matches will be separate from group tickets, as there will be 4 categories of tickets, starting from $10 and ending with $40, and that the average revenue from the last two matches may reach $3.3 million," pointing out He indicated that all revenues would go back to the Iraqi Football Association.
The continuation of the rehabilitation campaign for sports stadiums in Basra Governorate, two weeks before the start of the Gulf 25 (Al-Jazeera Net)
What are the repercussions of the championship on the economy?
The assistant governor of Basra, Hassan al-Najjar, confirms that the establishment of the sports city had a clear impact on the economic development of Basra through the provision of service, hotel and tourism facilities, noting that the reconstruction campaign for the governorate’s infrastructure for school and housing projects in districts and sub-districts began in 2019.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, he added, commenting, "Basra has reached advanced stages, as many main and secondary roads have been covered, with the rehabilitation of sewage networks and the provision of electric power around the clock, which was reflected in Basra and its residents through a large influx of visitors from the Gulf countries before the tournament." Which led to enhancing the reality of tourism in Basra.
How can we benefit from the experience of the State of Qatar?
The State of Qatar attracted the limelight through its impressive hosting of the 2022 World Cup, which ended a few days ago, which motivated the Iraqis to benefit from this experience.
In this regard, economist Yusuf al-Nabhani says, "Qatar is one of the Gulf countries that has developed rapidly in the areas of infrastructure, as it now possesses solid companies with experience in this field."
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Al-Nabhani suggested to the local government of Basra to initiate a twinning work with the Qatari capital, Doha, to establish strategic projects and invest liquefied gas in the province, he said.
Haider Al-Rubaie expresses fear that investors will flee because of bureaucracy, weapons and clans (Al-Jazeera Net)
How does sport contribute to the promotion of growth?
To answer this question, economic researcher Bassam Raad said in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, "Sport has transformed from a sporting hobby, to become a pillar of economic growth and social development in countries."
Regarding the direct economic effects of the championship on Iraq, Raad continues that it will be through direct TV broadcast fees, ticket prices for matches, and sales of commercial advertisements, indicating that these areas led to an increase in job opportunities in Basra, and contributed to activating the services and transport sectors and attracting direct Gulf investment to the province, as well as Indirect benefits related to well-being and improved social integration.
What are the obstacles to investing in Iraq?
Despite Raad's optimistic outlook on the development expected from Iraq's hosting of the 25th Gulf Championship, economic researcher Haider Falih al-Rubaie expresses fear of Gulf and foreign investors' reluctance to invest in Iraq due to several factors.
Including: bureaucracy, the proliferation of weapons, and tribalism that limit the success of investment, as he put it.
Al-Rubaie told Al-Jazeera Net, "The Iraqi government is required to remove all obstacles and prepare the appropriate ground for the investor, who is described in the financial world as (a coward)." Until it became one of the important countries on the world trade map, he said.