Libya to host football game after FIFA ban lifted
TUNIS--Libya will next week host the first international football match on its soil in seven years after African football chiefs lifted security restrictions on the country.
The north African nation will take on neighbours Tunisia in Benghazi on March 25 following an assessment late last month by the Confederation of African Football of security conditions in that city and the country’s capital Tripoli.
CAF has decided to first allow games in Benghazi.
Tunisia’s football federation confirmed on Thursday that the national team would be travelling there for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, arriving the day before kick-off.
Since the ban was imposed in 2014, Libya’s national team and its clubs competing in African club competitions have been forced to stage home matches outside their borders, in countries such as Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Tunisia. In a football-made country this has hit fans hard.
For Libyans, the Benghazi match will be a potent signal of hope that life in their country could be getting back to normal. A perceived return of security could help break its international isolation.
The Tunisia-Libya game will take place only a few days after the official trip to Libya by Tunisian President Kais Saied. His visit was the first by a foreign head of a state after the swearing-in of a new interim government.
A large Libya community has settled in Tunisia since 2011 after the ousting of long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
An initial restriction on hosting international football events in Libya was ordered by football’s international governing body FIFA in 2011. It was lifted briefly in 2013 before being re-imposed.
League football in Libya resumed last month after a three-year hiatus.
Benina stadium in Benghazi can hold 10,000 spectators.