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
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.