Iraq launch effort to beat Fifa ban

Iraq's government has contacted Fifa to ask them to lift their ban.

    Sepp Blatter, left, and Mohamed bin Hammam are
    standing firm on the Iraq issue [AFP] 

    Fifa has received official correspondence from Iraq's government, raising the possibility that world football's governing body could lift its international ban before Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Australia.

    A spokesman said the Fifa executive had received official notice from Iraq, just over 24 hours before the deadline to lift the ban was due to expire.

    "We have received a correspondence from the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Iraq," the spokesman said.

    "At the moment we are analysing the correspondence. It is too early to speculate on what will happen."

    Fifa slapped a temporary suspension on the Iraqi football team on Monday and threatened to extend the ban to one year after the government announced last week they were disbanding their National Olympic Committee.

    Fifa said Iraq's actions breached their official regulations outlawing political interference.

    Olympic reprecussions

    Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, urged the Iraqi government to stop interfering in sport and reverse their decision, saying they also risked being banned from this year's Beijing Olympics.

    The executive board left the door open for Iraq to earn a reprieve by giving the government until late on Thursday to reverse their decision or face a 12-month ban from international football.

    A decision on the ban was due to be put to the Fifa Congress, which meets in Sydney on Friday and requires a 75 percent vote to pass.

    Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Mohamed Bin Hammam believes it was paramount that governments be stopped from interfering in sport.

    "I'm 100 percent behind the (Fifa) decision," he said.

    The suspension is the minimum we can do to show our dissatisfaction of what the government has done.''

    Mohammad bin Hammam, AFC President

    "I'm also the architect behind this. I don't hesitate to attack any political decision or interference in football.

    "If Fifa and the confederation does not take a stand against this sort of act there will be a day when neither Fifa or national associations will have any sports individuals representing national associations."

    And while Blatter's has maintained his confidence at a resolution being reached bin Hammam was not convinced after meetings with Hussein Saeed, who was head of the disbanded Iraqi Football Association.

    While admitting it would be a "great shame'' if the reigning Asian Cup champion was suspended from World Cup qualifying, Hammam said it would send a strong message to governments who tried to interfere in the running of the national sports associations.

    "Now, our principle should go beyond the football federation,'' Hammam said.

    "What about the Olympic committee, the other sports federations?

    "We should show solidarity across the sports. We need more than a government saying (the dissolution of the national sports associations) applies to everyone else, except football.''

    Dignity and shame

    Hammam said there was more at stake than one country's World Cup campaign.

    "The dignity of elected national associations is at stake,'' he said.

    "It's more shameful for those who are forcing us to take such measures to prevent a very active national association, champion of Asia, from competing at the World Cup.''

    The suspension "is the minimum we can do to show our dissatisfaction of what the government has done.''

    Hammam, who is also a Fifa executive, said Saeed reported unofficial exchanges between government representatives and the sports associations, but nothing formal.

    "There's clear interference from the government, an official release from the government dissolving the NOC and sports federations came out last week,'' Hammam said.

    "Unless there's a public announcement by tomorrow night cancelling this, from our side as Fifa we're clear in our position, they'll be out of the World Cup.

    "It will be a big disappointment to the players and all the football fans. I have sympathy for them. But I hope they support the actions we're taking, it is for their benefit anyhow.''

    Extra pressure

    Iraq coach Adnan Hamad said the turmoil had put extra pressure on players from the war-torn country.

    "Of course it has affected them mentally, there has been a lot of talk out there and we will try to get the players focussed on the game,'' said Hamad, speaking through a translator.

    "This is an important game after losing to Qatar.

    "Football brings happiness to the Iraqi people who are living in hardship back home,'' he added.

    "Football would lose a big team in Iraq.''

    Iraq lost a warmup match 2-1 in Thailand last weekend and started its World Cup qualifying campaign with a draw in China and a 2-0 loss to Qatar.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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