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FIFA to decide on Iraq ban – Blatter

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 May 2008

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FIFA is to decide on Tuesday whether to suspend Iraq from international competition ahead of this weekend’s World Cup qualifier against Australia, its president Sepp Blatter said.

Blatter said FIFA’s executive committee would bar Iraq if Baghdad does not comply with the world governing body’s demand to revoke an order dissolving the Iraq Football Association.

Blatter, here for this week’s FIFA Congress, said the Asian champions could also be facing a ban by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which would rule them out of the Beijing Games in August.

“If there is no move by the (Iraqi) Minister of Sport, we will have no alternative but to suspend the federation, and that means they will have no right to participate in international football,” Blatter told reporters Monday.

“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 (suspension from the Beijing Olympics) as FIFA.”

The Asian Football Confederation has also demanded that Iraq reinstate its football body. The Iraqi squad, who played a warm-up match in Bangkok on Sunday, are scheduled to fly in Tuesday as the executive committee meets.

“The executive will meet on Tuesday and if the government has not acted it will have no alternative but to suspend Iraq immediately,” Blatter warned.

“But 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.”

Australian media reported Monday that Sunday’s qualifier in Brisbane was likely to go ahead. With the match virtually sold out,

Football Federation Australia (FFA) said it stands to lose about three million dollars (2.9 million US) in gate takings and sponsorships.

But if FIFA suspends Iraq then all its fixtures become forfeits, handing the Socceroos a free ride to the next stage of qualifying.

Chairman Frank Lowy said FFA was awaiting the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting with “bated breath.”

“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,” he said.

“But we will also lose money, and the fans will be disappointed if the game does not go ahead. So we are waiting with bated breath to see the outcome.”

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

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