Today: Last Update:

  • Iraq Faces FIFA Ultimatum


    FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he is hopeful that the Iraq government will step out of sport governance. (Getty Images).  
    (ATR) FIFA gives the government of Iraq a deadline to reinstate the country's national Olympic committee or face a one-year ban from international football.

    On day one of a two-day meeting in Sydney, the FIFA Executive Committee says the case for suspension of the Iraqi Football Association will be presented to FIFA Congress later this week.

    The FIFA decision comes after the Iraq government dissolved the Iraqi National Olympic Committee and all national sport federations, including the IFA, on May 20.

    The case of the Iraqi Football Association will be presented to the FIFA Congress on 30 May for suspension until the FIFA Congress in 2009, that is, for one year.

    But FIFA says the suspension will be lifted if it receives written confirmation by May 29 from the Iraqi government that the decree has been annulled.
    News of the possible FIFA suspension tops many Iraq newspapers. (Getty Images)  

    “We have asked the government to withdraw its decision against the Iraq Football Association and we believe the IOC has also made the same request and threatened the same punishment [athlete suspension from the Beijing Olympics] as FIFA,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter told reporters.

    “I'm very confident, more than hopeful, that the situation will change.

    “Can you imagine the reaction of the [Iraqi] people if we had to suspend them from football?

    I think the minister should think twice about what he has done.”

    But the newly appointed national Olympic committee says it has not interfered with national governing bodies.

    A spokesman for the committee is quoted in media reports saying that the government dissolution decree applies only to the NOC executive council, not NGB leadership.

    The FIFA decision seriously throws into doubt a virtually sold-out World Cup qualifier between Iraq and Australia, scheduled for the weekend in Brisbane.

    Iraq is also scheduled to play Australia in a return leg in Dubai on June 7.

    The Asian Football Confederation has also demanded that Iraq reinstate its football body.
    A government-appointed temporary executive council now sits in the Iraq NOC office. (Getty Images)  

    The Iraqi squad, which played a warm-up match in Bangkok on Sunday, is scheduled to fly into Australia today.

    Football Federation Australia says it stands to lose about $2.9 in tickets and sponsorships if the suspension remains in place. But the financial pain would result in the Socceroos entry to the next stage of qualification to the World Cup.

    “It’s a vexed question. Obviously we want to be in the World Cup, but we also want to beat Iraq. If we get points we haven't worked for, of course we will take them," says FFA chair Frank Lowy.

    “But we will also lose money, and the fans will be disappointed if the game does not go ahead.”

    The IOC has also demanded the reinstatement of the National Olympic Committee of Iraq. The IOC Executive Board next week is expected to discuss the situation next week. With the Beijing Olympics approaching, the IOC may have to figure out a way for Iraq athletes to participate without a recognized NOC.

    With reporting from Anthony Stavrinos in Sydney.

    For general comments or questions,
    click here

    The Golden 25 special edition magazine is now available in PDF.
    Click here to see who will be most influential in the Olympic Movement in 2008.

    Your best source of news about the Olympics is, for subscribers only.