Iraq FA condemns 'abhorrent behaviour' of journalists who confronted Jesus Casas

Tempers flared during Spaniard's post-match press conference after Iraq suffered 3-2 defeat to Jordan to exit Asian Cup

Iraq had won all their group games at the 2023 Asian Cup under coach Jesus Casas before a 3-2 defeat to Jordan in the last 16. AFP
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The Iraq Football Association have condemned the "abhorrent behaviour" of journalists who confronted coach Jesus Casas during his post-match press conference following the team's Asian Cup exit on Monday.

Two goals in stoppage time saw Iraq slump to a 3-2 defeat and exit at the last-16 stage to lower-ranked Jordan in Doha.

As Casas prepared to answer journalists' questions after the match, tempers flared among some Iraqi reporters, who pointed and shouted angrily at the Spaniard, and approached him at the front of the room before being ushered away by security.

"It pains me what happened," Casas, who has been Iraq coach since November 2022, said of the episode.

Iraq's FA released a statement in which it expressed its "great dismay" at the "scene that was more painful than the undeserved exit of our team".

"These events have no connection to the authentic Iraqi media that is known for its honorable positions," it said, adding that the reporters' behaviour was a "black mark" and their actions had "harmed Iraq" and insulted the coach.

"We denounce the blatant and abhorrent behaviour that occurred against the coach," it said, vowing "not to deal with these media personnel who seek to cause chaos".

The body said it would "follow legal methods to restore the coach's reputation" and was taking measures to preserve the country's image "with unlimited support" from Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani.

Casas, 50, was himself angered in Sunday's pre-match press conference by a question about interviews he has done with Spanish media during the Asian Cup.

Some journalists from Iraq believe the interviews distracted him from his work and were partly to blame for Monday's defeat.

Casas rubbished that notion, pointing out that his team had won all three of their group games, including beating pre-tournament favourites Japan 2-1.

"Concerning my future, I'm calm and our goal is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup," Casas, a former assistant coach to Luis Enrique at Spain's national side, said after the Jordan loss.

"Anything might happen and I'm very calm."

Unlike previous national team coaches, Casas and his coaching staff reside in Iraq.

In an interview with The National published on January 15, 2024, Casas spoke of his affection for the people of Iraq and how he hoped to emulate the "heroes" of 2007 and win the Asian Cup.

Not long after his appointment in November 2022, and less than three weeks from his first match with the national team, Casas guided his new side to Arabian Gulf Cup glory.

A fourth regional crown not only snapped a 34-year wait for the trophy, but it held even greater significance: the tournament took place in Basra, the first time the competition was staged in Iraq for almost half a century.

It was only the year before that Fifa, after decades of war and instability in Iraq, lifted its ban on the country hosting international matches.

Jordan, quarter-finalists in 2004 and 2011, face Tajikistan on Friday for a place in the last four. The Central Asians, one of the surprise packages of the tournament on Asian Cup debut, defeated the UAE on penalties on Sunday.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 8:36 AM