CNN  — 

For Iraqi soccer fans, the waiting is almost over.

After an eight-year hiatus, the Iraq men’s national team will play its first competitive fixture on home soil when it faces Hong Kong in a World Cup qualifying match in Basra on Thursday.

Now, with the hope of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Iraq is gearing up to play in front of its own fans – the first time it has done so in a competitive match since the 2-0 defeat by Jordan in Erbil in 2011.

Iraq midfielder Ali Hussein (R) celebrates his goal during the the 2019 WAFF Championship match between Iraq and Lebanon in Karbala on July 30, 2019

“This is a huge deal because pretty much since 1980 it has been very difficult to host a competitive international football match in Iraq,” football writer and author James Montague told CNN.

“First there w