|FIFA has suspended Iraq twice from international competition in three years because of ‘political interference’ [GALLO/GETTY]|
Najeh Hamoud was elected new boss of the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) on Saturday, putting an end to an ongoing dispute with world football’s governing body FIFA.
The struggle to find a new leader for the organisation has played out over months and at times had threatened to derail Iraq’s struggling football programme.
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Iraqi football officials last year failed to elect new leadership after allegations of government interference in the sport’s affairs.
Association members met in Baghdad and elected Hamoud as chairman of the association for the next four years by a vote of 45 to 28.
The election came after the IFA’s disputed chief Hussein Said announced his resignation last Monday.
For the past two years former incumbent Said had been locked in a conflict with Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, which had opposed him at every turn for his past ties with the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Said had served as a deputy to Saddam’s younger son, Uday, but has denied he was ever a member of the Iraqi dictator’s Baath party.
Last August, FIFA gave Iraqi football chiefs a one-year deadline to settle their differences after elections last July to the IFA board fell into disarray.
FIFA lifted its suspension on Iraq in March last year after a solution was reportedly found in the spat.
But about a week before a new IFA election was due to take place, soldiers sought to arrest Said and three other senior officials on corruption charges.
Two rival general assemblies were then held in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and in the northern city of Arbil on July 24, prompting the IFA to postpone elections of a new executive committee.
FIFA had originally suspended the IFA in November 2009 after Iraqi police seized control of the association’s offices and its board was dissolved on charges of links to Saddam.
FIFA then demanded the reinstatement of the association’s executive committee and threatened to ban Iraq from international matches over “governmental interference in the electoral process” of the IFA.
Iraq was also briefly sidelined from international football in May 2008, after the government dissolved the national Olympic Committee a year after the national side won the Asian Cup.