Water crisis in Basra hospitalises top Iraqi football team
A top Iraqi football team from Baghdad is unable to kick off the new season after its players became the latest victims of a health crisis in the southern city of Basra.
The Al-Hussein team travelled 600 kilometres south to play Naft Al-Junoob in the Iraqi Premier League, but at least ten players and two senior management staff were reportedly hospitalised by polluted water.
The visiting club had taken precautions ahead of Monday's fixture, administrative manager Fadhel Zaghir told AFP - but to little avail.
"We brought a lot of mineral water with us from Baghdad but it seems the water used by the players to wash themselves and their clothes was polluted," he said.
"With ten players and two members of the management team spending the night in hospital... (we negotiated) a postponement of the match with Naft Al-Junoob" after agreement from the Iraq Football Association, he said.
The Al-Hussein team remains in Basra, because the players are too unwell to travel back to Baghdad.
No new date has been set for the fixture.
The water crisis in oil-rich Basra province has put 60,000 people in hospital since mid-August, according to the provincial council for human rights.
The pollution sparked angry protests in Basra earlier this month against poor public services.
Twelve protesters were killed amid several nights of violence, which saw public institutions and the Iranian consulate torched in Basra City.
The crisis has had major ramifications in Baghdad, undermining the power base of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Abadi said last week said he would not seek to head a new government, as negotiations over the next administration drag on, some four months after national elections.