Iraq handed Fifa suspension
Asian champs could miss Olympics and World Cup qualifiers
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: 26/05/08 1:57pm
Iraq star Nashat Akram faces anxious wait
Iraq's participation in this year's Olympics looks in doubt after being suspended from international competition by Fifa, world football's governing body.
Fifa's executive board made the decision on Monday after the Iraqi government dissolved the country's National Olympic Committee and all its national sport federations.
The ban takes immediate effect and it will be recommended to the Fifa Congress, which meets in Sydney on Friday, that Iraq be suspended from all tournaments for one year.
That would mean the Asian champions miss the Beijing Olympics and their remaining 2010 World Cup qualifiers, although Fifa have said they would lift the ban if the Iraqi government overturned its decision by 1400 GMT on Thursday.
Iraq were beaten by Italy in the Olympic semi-finals in Athens four years ago and defied the odds to win the Asian Cup last year.
Adnan Hamad's men are due to face Australia in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday and they will fly to Brisbane on Tuesday unsure if the game will go ahead.
"It's difficult for me and the players," said the Iraq coach. "It's our dream to go to the World Cup.
"Now the Iraqi government has made this decision it's become difficult for us. These players won't get another chance to play at the World Cup. Politics is stopping them living their dream.
"They (the Iraqi people) believe this team is the only thing that can bring the country together," Hamad added.
"Football success is the only thing that makes them happy."
Iraq's sports minister Jasem Mohammed Jaafar has said that the government will not back down from its decision, which Fifa president Sepp Blatter has described as 'unlawful'.
Iraq have won only one match since winning the Asian Cup last year and after two games are bottom of their 2010 World Cup qualifying group, which also includes China and Qatar.
But Hamad, who played during their only previous World Cup appearance in 1986, believes his side can still book their place in South Africa.
"We still have a chance to qualify," he said. "This team is definitely good enough."