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Iraq appeals FIFA ban

November 21, 2009 18:12 IST

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

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

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the ban was the result of "clear incitement" by the IFA.

"The Olympic Committee will present and explain to FIFA the imperative reasons for disbanding the administrative body of the IFA and the financial, legal, and administrative irregularities that have accompanied its work for five years," Dabbagh said.

He said an election would be held for new IFA leaders that was both in accordance with international rules and Iraqi laws.

Samir al-Moussawi, a senior official of the committee, said its 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.

"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.

SADDAM ERA

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 soccer 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 IFA head Hussein Saeed has lived in Jordan for the past three years.

It has demanded the IFA elect a new governing board but the soccer 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," said Najih Hmoud, deputy head of the IFA.

"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.

Source:
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