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Blatter´s ´good feeling´ Iraq will play football WCup qualifier

SoccerNews in World Cup 27 May 2008

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FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Iraq must back down from 'political interference' in its national football federation so the team can play their World Cup qualifier in Australia this weekend.

Blatter said he had a 'good feeling' that Iraq will play their match in Brisbane on Sunday.

The game is in jeopardy after the world governing body said it would suspend Iraq from international competition for 12 months unless the Iraqi government reinstates the Iraq Football Association by midnight on Thursday (1400 GMT).

The Iraqi government said it sacked its national Olympic committee and with it all sports federations because the committee had lacked a quorum to conduct its meetings and had not held elections for more than five years.

Blatter said he could not understand how Iraq would not want to play in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup after their heroics in winning last year's Asian Cup.

“I am not a betting man, but I try to be a prophet and I say that Iraq will play… must play (on Sunday),” Blatter told a press conference here Tuesday ahead of this week's FIFA Congress.

“I have been working 33 years in the development of football in FIFA and… attended last year's final of the Asian Cup in Jakarta where Iraq beat the (Asian) powerhouse in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“To feel the energy of the stadium where 73,000 people were behind Iraq and now they should not play in the World Cup for reasons of political interference in the country where football has given so much hope when they won the Asian Cup?

“I cannot understand, (but) I have a good feeling that they will come, they will be here, they will play in Brisbane on Sunday.”

FIFA's executive committee has given the Iraqi government the opportunity to revoke its decree before the resolution to suspend Iraq from World Cup qualifying goes to a vote of the organisation's general congress here on Friday.

“It is a sad decision concerning football in Iraq, but FIFA had no alternative but to suspend its football association after the government decision to dissolve the national Olympic committee and all the sports federations,” Blatter said.

“They (the government) have the opportunity to withdraw its decree otherwise it will not be possible for Iraq to play in the World Cup.”

If the FIFA suspension is carried through, all of Iraq's fixtures would become forfeits, throwing a World Cup qualifying group which also includes China and Qatar into chaos.

Australia's football federation says it is making contingency plans in case Sunday's World Cup qualifier does not go ahead.

FIFA's decision has left the Australian and Iraqi squads in limbo as they prepare for the near sellout game and the return match in Dubai on June 7.

Iraq were scheduled to arrive in Brisbane late Tuesday from Bangkok where they lost 2-1 to Thailand in a warm-up match on Sunday.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief executive Ben Buckley said scrapping Sunday's qualifier would cost his organisation about two million dollars (1.9 million US) in gate receipts.

The president of Iraq's dissolved football association, Hussein Saeed, has appealed to FIFA to rethink its decision.

Saeed said he would arrive in Sydney on Wednesday for talks with FIFA officials aimed at persuading them to reverse their decision to suspend Iraq.

The Asian Football Confederation has demanded that Iraq reinstate its football body.

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