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Troops raid Iraqi football HQ
Soldiers searching for four officials accused by the government of corruption.
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2010 16:07 GMT
The popularity of football in Iraq was boosted by victory in the Asian Nations Cup in 2007 [EPA] 

Iraqi troops have raided the headquarters of the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) in a bid to arrest Hussein Said, the association's head, and three other officials accused of corruption.

About 20 soldiers stormed the offices in Baghdad on Sunday, less than a week before IFA holds elections to elect a new governing board, which were to be overseen by world football's governing body Fifa, an IFA official said.

"None of them were present and the soldiers left after half an hour," the official said, asking not to be named.

Fifa suspended IFA in November 2009 after Iraqi police seized control of its offices and its governing board was dissolved on charges of links to former government of Saddam Hussein.

On March 19, the suspension was lifted after a solution was found to the dispute over alleged government interference, allowing the national team to take part in football tournaments.

Fifa has sent two representatives to observe the IFA elections, to be held next Saturday in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.

It has also called for the members of the association's executive committee suspended by the government, including Said, to be reinstated.

Political interference

Said is considered one of the legends of Iraqi football.

He was 17 years old when he led the under-18 Iraqi national team to victory in the Asian Cup in Iran in 1977, where he scored the winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the hosts in the final.

Said soon became one of Iraq's most successful and popular strikers, whose goals were vital to many of Iraq's national team achievements, including qualifying to the World Cup for the first time in 1986.

Iraqi football and the country's Olympic Committee were headed by Uday Hussein during Saddam's rule and Said was made a senior official on the committee.

Fifa repeatedly expressed concern about political interference in football in Iraq in the run-up to the suspension in 2009, as the football association was caught in the power struggle between different factions.

Iraq had already been briefly sidelined from international football in May 2008, after the government dissolved the Olympic Committee.

After the overthrow of Saddam in the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq's new leadership had taken control of the Olympic Committee and all other sports federations.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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