Malmö a curious venue for Brazil, Iraq
STOCKHOLM - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoBrazil and Iraq will meet in a full international for the first time tonight, but both will be far from home as they take each other on in far-flung Malmö, Sweden.
Iraq is at least banking on some ‘home’ support to the extent that its compatriots are the largest immigrant community in Sweden’s third city.
“Organizing this historic encounter wasn’t easy,” says Marc Biolley of Matchworld Group, who has set up the meeting between the five-time world champions and an Iraq side coached by former Brazil legend Zico.
The Iraqis turned to Swiss promoter Biolley with world body FIFA refusing to allow them to play home matches following a chaotic match against Jordan in the city of Erbil, capital of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan.
Iraq was also keen to meet some top-drawer opponents as they gear up for their October 16 World Cup qualifier against Australia in Doha.
Brazil fitted the bill nicely, particularly as the team was otherwise free in an international week having already qualified as hosts for 2014.
The South American giants won an August friendly in Sweden but also lifted their first World Cup in 1958 at the Rasunda stadium in nearly Solna.
The logistics make sense for Brazil also in that many of its top stars play for European clubs.
Those stars include Paris Saint Germain defender Thiago Silva but also Real Madrid veteran Kaka, who is slated to win his 83rd cap two years on from his last appearance.
The Brazilian roadshow will move on four days later to a meeting with Japan in Wroclaw, Poland.
The Iraqis have just one Europe-based player in Ahmed Yasin, who plays for Swedish top-flight side Orebro.
Malmo counts some 10,000 Iraqi inhabitants out of the overall 125,000 Iraqi nationals who live in Sweden. In addition, Denmark, home to a further 30,000 Iraqis according to official figures, is just across the bay.
Home club Malmö, three points behind league leaders Elfsborg with four games of the Swedish season remaining, stand to make 116,000 euros from loaning out their 21,000-capacity Swedbank ground, though the club did not confirm the figure.
Club spokesman Per Welinder indicated he felt Thursday’s match would not be a sellout.
“We hope there will be a good crowd - but we’re not there yet,” he said.