Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) plans for a “super June” month of FIFA World Cup qualifiers looms as a “super dud” with news that the Iraq Football Association (IFA) faces suspension from international competition by football’s governing body FIFA.

This has put Sunday’s World Cup qualifying match between the Socceroos and Iraq in Brisbane in serious doubt. The question remains — what has happened in Iraq that has precipitated this situation?

When asked about it by commentator Simon Hill at yesterday’s press conference in Sydney, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter alluded to the fact that members of the IFA were seen as “unreliable” by the Iraqi Government. When pressed on the issue on Melbourne radio by this correspondent yesterday, FFA boss Ben Buckley said he didn’t have any ideas on the matter.

With thousands of tickets sold to the match in Brisbane and up to $3 million dollars on the line for the FFA, not to mention the disruption to players who’ve given up their time off to be involved in the qualifying process, surely we should be given a clear picture of what’s going on?

What we do know is that the Iraqi Government has decided to disband the board of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee and its federations.

The claim by Iraq’s government seems to be that the Olympic committee and its federations “had lacked a quorum to conduct its meetings and had not held elections for over five years”. Not surprising since the head of the Iraqi Olympic committee was kidnapped in July 2006 and other have gone to ground.

But there seems to be another deeper political struggle going on which has more to do with the main players in football board rooms in Iraq than players on the pitch.

The head of the IFA, Hussein Saeed, was a legendary player for his country. He also oversaw the running of football in Iraq under the brutal rein of Uday Hussein, son of Saddam. Uday was notorious for his ill treatment and brutalisation of Iraq’s sports stars, and whilst there’s no evidence of Saeed being complicit in this, there is an understandable disquiet about Saeed having worked for the previous regime.

Saeed has received support from FIFA boss Sepp Blatter as the only man he would work with in Iraq.

It begs an important question. In going into bat for his man in Baghdad, is Blatter using the threat of pulling the plug on the Socceroos match to send a warning to other governments not to interfere in the internal affairs of sporting federations – corrupt or otherwise – without fear of reprisal from FIFA or their mates at the IOC?

How can the FIFA boss claim a Thursday midnight deadline for the Iraqi Government to change its mind or face the one year ban before the 2008 FIFA congress commences on Thursday in Sydney? Where does he get the authority to make such threats?

FIFA’s own statutes (Article 14, paragraph 2) hold that any suspension for a member must be “confirmed by a three-quarters majority of the votes taken at Congress. If it is not confirmed, the suspension is automatically lifted.”

So Blatter announces the suspension before the vote is taken. He’s always been a numbers man. And it seems he knows the yes men in the blue FIFA suits will do what they’re told, if they know what’s good for them.

Peter Fray

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