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FIFA gives Iraq 72 hours in row over association

17 November 2009 11:50

GENEVA (AFP) - FIFA on Tuesday gave Iraq a 72 hour ultimatum to reinstate its national football association or risk suspension from international football.

World football's governing body said in a statement that it had learnt that "the Iraqi Olympic Committee announced the dissolution of the governing board of the IFA (Iraqi Football Association)."

"If the decision to dissolute IFA is not cancelled within 72 hours (starting 16 November), and if the IFA Headquarters are not returned to the IFA within the same deadline, FIFA will have no choice but to refer the issue to the FIFA Emergency Committee in order to decide on a possible IFA suspension," it added.

FIFA's threat, however, was met with disdain in Baghdad.

"The Iraq Olympic Committee will not change its decision, regardless of the consequences," said Samir Mussawi, a member of the committee.

Football is incredibly popular in Iraq and its importance was boosted by the national side's victory in the 2007 Asian Nations Cup, a triumph that prompted wrangles and government involvement over who controlled the sport's affairs.

FIFA has expressed growing concern in recent weeks about possible political interference in the sport in Iraq.

It described the basis for the Iraq Olympic Committee's decision as "incomprehensible... This stands in total contradiction with IFA and FIFA statutes".

In September, FIFA gave the Iraqi football association until April 30, 2010 to elect a new board.

But three weeks ago, it reiterated concerns about interference by "some quarters in the Iraqi government" and warned that it would consider suspension if there was an attempt to force earlier elections of new footballing chiefs.

Iraq was briefly suspended from international football in May 2008, after the Baghdad government dissolved the National Olympic Committee.

It was reinstated only after the government sent a letter to FIFA confirming that the Iraqi Football Federation had not been affected.

The International Olympic Committee had also suspended Iraq's National Olympic Committee from international competition.

But that row was also resolved shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In May, former goalkeeper Raad Hamudi, who led Iraq to its only World Cup appearance in 1986, was elected to head the National Olympic Committee in a vote supervised by international observers.

FIFA said it was appealing "once more to all stakeholders in Iraq to respect the autonomy of sport in general and the IFA in particular."

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