Iraqi of­fi­cials an­gry over Gulf Cup leav­ing Basra

The foot­ball fed­er­a­tions over­see­ing the Gulf have Cup moved next year>s Cup from Basra to Saudi Ara­bia due to con­cerns over prepa­ra­tions and se­cu­rity

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Zkaria Muhammed

At a meet­ing at the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Re­gency Ho­tel in Manama last week, the pres­i­dents of the foot­ball fed­er­a­tions of the six GCC na­tions plus Iraq and Ye­men de­cided to move the Gulf Cup from Iraq to Saudi Ara­bia.

An­other meet­ing is ex­pected to be held in Saudi Ara­bia next month at which the sec­re­tary gen­er­als of the fed­er­a­tions will de­cide on the of­fi­cial dates for the com­pe­ti­tion.

In­com­plete in­fra­struc­ture in Iraq, as well as a ban by foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body FIFA on the coun­try host­ing in­ter­na­tional matches due to se­cu­rity con­cerns, were the rea­sons given for the switch.

Basra was orig­i­nally sched­uled to host the 21st edi­tion of the Gulf Cup, but the event was moved to Bahrain with Iraq be­ing told it could host the 22nd edi­tion of the Cup, if ready, in ei­ther De­cem­ber 2014 or Jan­uary 2015.

The de­ci­sion comes amidst Iraq>s dead­li­est spike in vi­o­lence since 2008. Basra was given ex­tra time ear­lier this year to fin­ish con­struc­tion for the 2014 event, but the en­voys meet­ing in Bahrain de­cided to move the com­pe­ti­tion on Tues­day.

The Gulf Cup, which started in 1970, brings to­gether Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Ye­men and the reign­ing cham­pion the United Arab Emi­rates.

Fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion, the Iraqi Min­istry of Youth and Sport an­nounced that «It has be­come man­i­festly clear that the rea­son for mov­ing the tour­na­ment from Basra to Jed­dah was po­lit­i­cal and taken un­der in­tense pres­sure from Saudi Ara­bia.»

«Saudi Ara­bia and oth­ers are con­spir­ing against Iraq and Iraqi sport be­hind closed doors.»

The state­ment went on to claim that Iraq had poured huge sums of money into pre­par­ing for the tour­na­ment, and that the Gulf States had agreed to hold the event in Basra in 2007, when the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion was worse than now. They plan to lodge an of­fi­cial com­plaint and have ap­pointed a lawyer to look into lift­ing the ban.

The Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter, Nuri al-Ma­liki, also weighed into the dis­pute, de­scrib­ing the tour­na­ment switch as «prej­u­diced against the rights of the Iraqi peo­ple» in a tele­vised speech.

An Iraqi MP from the Fad­hila bloc called upon the Ex­ec­u­tive and Leg­isla­tive Au­thor­i­ties to re­veal the real rea­sons be­hind Iraq be­ing de­prived of the com­pe­ti­tion and it be­ing trans­ferred to Jed­dah in Saudi Ara­bia.

«The move has dis­ap­pointed the peo­ple of Basra who were look­ing for­ward to host­ing it in their prov­ince. There are clearly hid­den po­lit­i­cal agen­das be­hind the de­ci­sion to trans­fer the cham­pi­onship, but we also should ad­mit that the com­pa­nies im­ple­ment­ing the Basra sport city projects have been neg­li­gent,» she said.

She thinks the Iraqi Foot­ball Team has to take a stand against the de­ci­sion by with­draw­ing from the com­pe­ti­tion—a move she thinks would pre­serve Iraq>s dig­nity.

FIFA sus­pended Iraq from host­ing in­ter­na­tional matches in 2002, amend­ing its de­ci­sion in 2009 to al­low cer­tain matches to be played in the Kur­dish cap­i­tal city of Er­bil, al­though the ban was later re­in­stated.

In March, FIFA said Iraq could play at home again, but with vi­o­lence wors­en­ing as Sunni Is­lamist in­sur­gents re­gained ground, they sus­pended per­mis­sion again in July.

This has not stopped Iraqi teams en­joy­ing much suc­cess in re­cent years, reach­ing the semi­fi­nals of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and win­ning the Asian Cup in 2007.

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