KUALA LUMPUR // Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, has expressed his "deep concern" at the failure of Iraq to elect a new president for its football federation, which could lead to their suspension from the international game. A political power struggle has paralysed the Iraqi Football Association (IFA), highlighting sectarian divisions in the country three years after a multi-ethnic Iraqi squad triumphed in the Asian Cup.
A new ban could prevent Iraq from defending their Asian Cup title in Qatar in January. "The situation in Iraq is of deep concern to AFC and Fifa," bin Hammam said on the official AFC website. "I hope the issue will be resolved amicably for the good of Iraqi football." Two attempts to elect a new president in Arbil last weekend failed because too few delegates made the journey to the city in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Fifa, football's governing body, decided the vote should take place for security reasons.
The government of Nuri al Maliki, the Shi'ite prime minister, has been trying to remove officials from sport bodies suspected of having ties to the Sunni-led former government of Saddam Hussein. Hussain Saeed, the IFA president who was once a senior official on the Olympic Committee controlled by Saddam's son, Uday, is facing a challenge from Falah Hassan, backed by the Shi'ite-led government. Saeed accused the government of putting pressure on delegates not to travel to Arbil and requested that Fifa allow the IFA to postpone the election until further notice. Fifa bans governments from meddling in national federations and has suspended Iraq twice, lifting the last ban in March on condition the IFA agreed to new elections.
"All parties need to abide by Fifa's guidelines, which are very clear," bin Hammam added. "Politics has no place in football and all stakeholders should work together to take Iraqi football forward. The game is a great unifying factor in Iraq. The authorities should take care that its credibility is not destroyed." * Reuters