Tickets for the 25th Gulf Cup, the first major football tournament to be hosted by Iraq in more than 40 years, went on sale on Saturday.
The January tournament in the southern city of Basra will see Saudi Arabia competing after their World Cup appearance in Qatar – where they provided one of the shocks of the competition by beating eventual champions Argentina 2-1.
Qatar, who departed the World Cup after the first round, will also be competing, along with Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and host nation Iraq.
Holding the Cup is a challenge for Iraq, which has experienced decades of conflict following the overthrow of longtime authoritarian Saddam Hussein in the US-led invasion of 2003. The security situation remains fragile across much of the country.
“Today, we are launching the sale of Gulf-25 tickets,” Adnan Dirjal, head of Iraq’s football federation, told reporters in Basra on Saturday.
Tickets for the January 6-19 competition range from $10 to $30.
Iraqi authorities announced earlier this month that fans visiting Iraq for the competition will not have to pay visa fees. The country is hoping to attract football fans from across the region, including Kuwait, whose border with Iraq lies less than 50km (30 miles) from Basra.
One of the city’s stadiums has a capacity of 65,000, while the second can hold 30,000 fans and will be inaugurated on Monday with a friendly match between two clubs from Iraq and Kuwait’s domestic leagues.
Football’s governing body, FIFA, earlier this year lifted a ban on international competitions in Iraq that had been in place for years due to security concerns.
In January, Baghdad’s packed Al-Madina Stadium hosted a friendly between Iraq and Uganda, the first international match in the capital since 2013.
Iraq first hosted the Gulf Cup in Baghdad in 1979, when it also won the tournament. The country was set to hold the Cup’s 2014 edition but it was instead shifted to Saudi Arabia.