Al-Shaab Stadium or The People’s Stadium in English is a multi-purpose sports ground located in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Municipally owned, the 35,000 capacity venue is the second largest in the country behind Basra International Stadium.
The original version of Al-Shaab Stadium first opened on 6th November 1966 after a gruelling construction period of 6 years. Designed to accommodate over 45,000 supporters within a sports complex which spans over 200,000 metres squared, Al-Shaab stadium was a gargantuan project in its day costing over 1 million dinars.
To mark the opening of Iraq’s new stadium an inaugural fixture was played between Baghdad Team and Benfica F.C on 6th November 1966. Resulting in a narrow 2-1 victory for the Portuguese visitors, the first ever match at Al-Shaab Stadium attracted a crowd in excess of 60,000 despite only being designed to hold 75% of the people in attendance.
Home to the Iraq National Football Team until 2013 when Basra Sports City Stadium opened, the stadium failed to undergo any substantial renovations for the first 36 years of its history due to being constantly in use for either Internationals or matches of the domestic football league.
During the Battle of Baghdad in 2003, Al-Shaab Stadium sustained heavy explosive damage after being bombed by the U.S Air Force. Initially taken over as an airstrip, the Americans subsequently donated $3 million dollars to the regeneration project of the historic sports ground.
Al-Shaab Stadium reopened in time for the 2005/2006 Iraqi Premier League season, and has since undergone further renovations. The pitch, athletics track and seats were replaced in 2010, and the Government of Iraq are now planning to upgrade the remaining facilities to FIFA’s International Standards in 2015.