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SBD Global/October 10, 2013/International Football

Al-Hussein Criticises FIFA For Banning Iraq From Hosting International Matches

FIFA VP Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein "has criticised" FIFA for banning Iraq from "hosting home internationals and called upon the organisation to do more for supporters in the Middle East," according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. Iraq hosted friendlies against Syria and Liberia earlier this year after FIFA lifted a previous ban, but it "was reintroduced in July over security concerns in the war-torn country where two suicide bombers killed 60 people in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday." The '07 Asian champions "have long had to deal with the problem" and hosted a majority of their 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Qatar and take on Saudi Arabia in a ''home'' Asian Cup qualifying match in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Tuesday. In a statement, Al-Hussein, who is also the West Asian Football Federation president, said, "I would like to emphasize that Iraq should be able to host friendly matches, whether in the south or the north. There are other countries facing similar issues but are given the green light, there is no reason to exclude Iraq at this point." He was "also frustrated by the Swiss-based body's attitude to his region." Last month, Middle East media reported Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were unhappy and "seeking a rectification" after FIFA "changed how they described the Gulf region on their website, replacing 'Arabian' with 'Persian.'" Al-Hussein said, "Allow me to stress that it is crucial for FIFA, which comprises more than 200 richly diverse members, to be mindful and respectful of cultural sensitivities" (REUTERS, 10/9).

IRAQ PULLS OUT: REUTERS' Salman & Smith reported Iraq "has withdrawn" from the '14-15 Gulf Cup of Nations "in protest at a decision to move the tournament from the southern city of Basra to Saudi Arabia, in a spat highlighting the two countries’ worsening relations." The heads of FAs agreed unanimously on Tuesday "to switch the tournament" to the Saudi city of Jeddah, citing "incomplete infrastructure" and FIFA's ban on Iraq hosting int'l matches. Iraq was also due to host the '13 tournament, but this "was moved to Bahrain instead, and the Iraqi cabinet reacted furiously to the latest snub by withdrawing the country’s team" (REUTERS, 10/9).

HISTORY REPEATS: In Dubai, Ashley Hammond reported this is "the second time Iraq’s bid to host the event has been overruled." The 2013 Gulf Cup was moved "from Basra to Manama at short notice." A statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Youth and Sports said, "The decision to withdraw from the tournament was not taken lightly as some people believe. It was based on the knowledge about negative stances. Basra’s application to host the tournament was treated with stringent severity, unlike the case of Yemen, where everybody worked together to ensure the success of the tournament" (GULF NEWS, 10/9).
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