PtG Article 21.11.2009

Inconsistency in FIFA's suspensions over government interference

Reigning Asian champions Iraq have become the eleventh country in the last five years to be plunged into international isolation by FIFA for political interference but the world body is not seemingly intent on suspending Guinea for similar offences.

When FIFA discovered on November 16 that the country’s Olympic Committee had dissolved the Iraqi Football Federation after sending in security forces to the IFA’s headquarters, the world body gave the Iraqi’s 72 hours to re-instate the IFA. When this was not honoured, FIFA imposed the ban.

“The deadline has expired without revocation of the decision by the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the IFA has not been restored to its headquarters,” said FIFA in a statement.

“The FIFA emergency committee has therefore decided to immediately suspend the IFA until the decision of the Iraqi Olympic Committee is revoked and the IFA retakes possession of its offices.

“In accordance with FIFA statutes, the clubs and representative teams of Iraq are no longer permitted to take part in international matches, whether friendly or competitive. Furthermore, the IFA is deprived of its right to vote at any congresses held by international bodies and is no longer entitled to receive financial assistance.

The measures taken by the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the security forces are unacceptable to FIFA as they stand in total contradiction of IFA and FIFA statutes.

The current members of the IFA Executive Committee are the sole recognised interlocutors for FIFA, and FIFA hopes that they will be rapidly reinstated so that they can work on the agreements that have been reached with regard to the revision of the statutes and the holding of elections.

Iraq won the 2007 Asian Cup but the IFA’s control over football in the country is hardly much stronger than the federal government. No official representatives from the regional Kurdistan Football Association attended the last IFA general assembly and the Kurds fielded their own ‘national’ teams in the 2008 and 2009 VIVA World Cup’s for non-FIFA teams organised by the NF Board – despite FIFA rules seemingly prohibiting this.

“The organizations especially sport is not as expected in a federal system,” says Ahmad Azad Pahlavan, a sports specialist at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s ministry of sports & youth and an international badminton referee.

FIFA suspended Iraq for a year on May 26 2008 after the country’s government disbanded the IFA only to overturn this ruling three days later, when Iraqi politicians backed down.

FIFA inconsistent in its suspensions

The world body famously brooks no meddling by politicians in its members, which allows FIFA’s associations a large degree of independence but also prevents any governments from seeking reforms, whether merited or not, in sports bodies they often help fund.

FIFA’s seemingly hard-line stance does not appear to apply to all members. Only a few days ago, Guinea’s minister of sports reportedly dissolved the country’s football team after Mamadi Souare’s team failed to qualify for both next year’s World Cup finals and the 2010 African Nations Cup.

According to a reliable source quoted by news agency AFP in Dakar, minister Fodeba Isto Keira announced "The Guinea national side has been dissolved for insufficient results and ill-discipline."

Souare has only been in his job since July and his reported dismissal comes days after Guinea – quarter-finalists in the last three African Nations Cup finals - lost 3-0 to the Ivory Coast leaving the country bottom of their 2010 qualification group with just three points.

The president of the ruling junta of the country, Captaine Moussa Dadis Camara, sacked Guinea’s French manager Robert Nouzzaret earlier this year, and Souare plus Fode Laye Camara and Mandjou Diallo, were then brought in four months ago only to be reportedly dismissed as the Fédération Guinéenne de Football suffered the same interference as the IFA.

Play The Game (PTG) asked FIFA to explain why Iraq had been sanctioned and Guinea not so but this request received no reply. FIFA also ignored another PTG request to detail the exact amount of members suspended from the world body over the last five years.

14 suspensions the last five years

Despite this, PTG research has identified at least 14 suspensions meted out by FIFA since 2004 with Iraq’s suspension the third handed out by the world body in the past few months alone.

The Football Association of Brunei Darussalam was suspended indefinitely in September 2009, when the Asian Sultanate’s government decided to replace the FABD with a new body.

Brunei remain in international isolation and the Kuwait Football Association (KFA), which has been suspended twice by FIFA since 2007, is only being allowed to compete in the qualifying campaign for the 2011 Asian Cup on a provisional basis.

A similar fudge has been agreed over the latest suspension of Iraq, whose women have been allowed to take part in an U-16 regional football festival organised by the Norwegian Football Association in Jordan from November 22-29.

FIFA’s suspensions have threatened a number of members with suspension, including Zambia, which was on the verge of being ousted in March this year over the suspension of Zambia Football Federation (ZFA) President Kalusha Bwalya by the country’s government, which backed down only days later and re-instated Bwalya.

Last year, FIFA suspended Peru and three African nations. Government interference with the Fédération Malagasy de Football saw Madagascar left out in the cold along with Chad and Ethiopia.

The suspension of Ethiopia disrupted that year’s Council of East and Central Africa Football Council (CECAFA) Cup due to be staged in Uganda in November. Ethiopia was due to take part in the CECAFA Cup but their suspension, which was not lifted until this summer, contributed to the tournament being delayed by two months as Zambia were brought in as a guest team.

In 2008, FIFA suspended Kuwait for a second time in the space of a year and also threatened Poland with suspension after the government of Euro 2012 co-host fell out with the Polish Football Association and decided to replace the PFA with an administrator. That threat was never carried out nor was another threat to suspend Portugal in 2006 but that same year Greece were briefly suspended only two years after Otto Rehhagels’ side lifted the Euro 2004 crown. Kenya were also suspended in 2006 - for problems well-documented by PTG contributor Bob Munro.

That same year, Iran were also suspended although a FIFA fudge saw the Iranians temporarily return to the fold to defend their title at the 2006 Asian Games.

In 2005, Yemen were also suspended – yet again for government meddling, taking the total number of suspensions handed out by FIFA in the last years to at least 14.