FIFA de­mands Bahraini refugee player be al­lowed back to Aus­tralia

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

In­ter­na­tional soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body FIFA says a Bahraini refugee player facing pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion from Thailand should be freed and be al­lowed to re­turn to Aus­tralia to con­tinue his ca­reer.

Thai au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Ha­keem Al Araibi, who plays in Aus­tralia where he has refugee sta­tus, on ar­rival at a Bangkok air­port in Novem­ber last year, based on an In­ter­pol no­tice is­sued at Bahrain’s re­quest.

Al Araibi was con­victed of van­dal­iz­ing a po­lice sta­tion in Bahrain and sen­tenced to 10 years in prison in ab­sen­tia.

He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

“Fol­low­ing a re­newed ex­change with the Aus­tralian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, FIFA is again call­ing for a hu­mane and speedy res­o­lu­tion of the case con­cern­ing the player Ha­keem Al Araibi,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment on Wed­nes­day.

“This player, a Bahrain na­tional, is cur­rently be­ing de­tained in prison in Thailand await­ing the out­come of ex­tra­di­tion pro­ceed­ings to Bahrain, where he was pre­vi­ously con- victed of a crim­i­nal of­fence, the va­lid­ity of which he strongly con­tests,” con­tin­ued the state­ment.

Al Araibi, who used to play for the Bahrain na­tional team, was granted refugee sta­tus in Aus­tralia in 2017 and now plays for Mel­bourne club Pas­coe Vale, a team in the se­cond-tier league.

The player has been a vo­cal critic of the pres­i­dent of the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion, Sheikh Sal­man Bin Ebrahim Al Khal­ifa, who is a cousin of the Bahraini king.

Sheikh Sal­man is se­nior vice pres­i­dent of FIFA and ran for pres­i­dent of the body in 2016, los­ing to cur­rent chief Gianni In­fantino.

Dur­ing the cam­paign Sheikh Sal­man was strongly crit­i­cized by some hu­man rights groups. He de­nied claims that he had been in­volved in in­ves­ti­gat­ing and pros­e­cut­ing ath­letes ac­tive in Bahrain’s democ­racy protests in 2011.

“This sit­u­a­tion should not have arisen, in par­tic­u­lar, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller in Aus­tralia, where he has been ac­corded refugee sta­tus,” said FIFA.

“FIFA is there­fore call­ing on all the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties [in Bahrain, Thailand and Aus­tralia] to take the nec­es­sary steps to en­sure that Mr Ha­keem Al-Araibi is al­lowed to re­turn safely to Aus­tralia where he can re­sume his ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller.”

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