Iraq pulls out of Gulf Cup over venue shift
Baghdad, October 9, 2013
Iraq has withdrawn from the 2014-15 Gulf Cup of Nations in protest at a decision to move the tournament from the southern city of Basra to Saudi Arabia.
The competition between the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), plus usually Iraq and Yemen, is little known outside the region, but hotly contested within it and is next due to be held in late 2014 or early 2015.
The heads of Football Associations agreed unanimously on Tuesday to switch the tournament to the Saudi city of Jeddah, citing incomplete infrastructure and a ban by soccer's world governing body Fifa on Iraq hosting international matches because of security concerns.
Iraq was also due to host the 2013 tournament, but this was moved to Bahrain instead, and the Iraqi cabinet reacted furiously to the latest snub by withdrawing the country's team.
The Ministry of Youth and Sport said it was "extremely disappointed", denouncing the decision as politically motivated.
"It has become manifestly clear that the reason for moving the (tournament) from Basra to Jeddah is political and taken under intense pressure from Saudi," read a statement from the ministry. "Saudi Arabia and others are conspiring behind closed doors against Iraq and the sports (of Iraq)."
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki also weighed in, describing the tournament switch as "prejudiced against the rights of the Iraqi people" in his weekly televised speech on Wednesday.
Should Iraq boycott the tournament at the behest of its government, the national team and domestic clubs could face sanction from Fifa, which takes a dim view of political interference in football matters.
Fifa temporarily banned Cameroon in July for alleged state meddling, warning at the time: "The Fifa statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties." - Reuters