Iraq Expected FIFA Ban, Planning Appeal
Saturday, 21 November 2009

Iraqi sports authorities were not surprised football's world governing body decided to suspend the country from international competition and already have lawyers working on an appeal, an official said.

FIFA banned the Asian champions on Friday after the country's Olympic Committee disbanded the governing board of the Iraqi Football Association, the culmination of a feud over control of the sport that has lasted for at least a year.

Samir al-Moussawi, a senior official of the Olympic committee, said the actions were not arbitrary nor the panel's fault.

"It was the misleading reports that they (the IFA) delivered to FIFA and the mistakes they committed which led us to this point," Moussawi told Reuters late on Friday.

"We were not surprised and were not disappointed by this decision (of FIFA). We expected it and we are ready for it. We have already authorised some lawyers to appeal the decision."

It is Iraq's second ban in 18 months, the previous having lasted just three days, and comes only four months after they staged their first internationals at home since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The matches, both against Palestine, took place after FIFA granted Iraq an exemption to a general prohibition on staging international competitions at home.


Friday's ruling by FIFA means Iraq cannot play any internationals abroad either, and its clubs are also banned from playing foreign opposition.

At the heart of the dispute is an effort by Iraq's new Shi'ite Muslim-led authorities to wrest control of football from an association they view as dominated by sports figures from ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein's era.

Olympic committee members blame the IFA for the continuing FIFA ban on Iraq hosting international matches due to lingering problems over security. They say IFA leaders exaggerate the dangers of staging matches in Iraq for political reasons.

The Olympic committee also said it was unacceptable that the head of the IFA, Hussein Saeed, had lived in Jordan for the past three years.

It demanded the IFA elected a new governing board but the football federation has refused.

Olympic committee members were enraged when FIFA intervened to extend the board's mandate.

"This is very unfortunate. We warned everybody (about this) not because we want to stay in our positions but because we wanted our country to escape such a decision," deputy head of the IFA Najih Hmoud said.

"It is not just the reputation of Iraqi football that has been hurt but the reputation of all of Iraq at a time when it is trying to stand on its feet again."

Iraq surprised everyone, including their own fans, by winning the Asian Cup in 2007 but have struggled since then.


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