Iraq Star Can’t Play in England. Iraq Blames America.By: Laurie | January 27th, 2008
England denied the twenty-four-year-old midfielder’s request for a work permit this week, so he won’t be playing at Man City as planned. The reason? Iraq’s standing in the soccer world isn’t high enough, despite the fact that they won the Asian Cup soccer championship this summer.
Akram’s would-be employer, Manchester City Football Club, said the government’s rejection of the appeal was based on a technicality. The Iraqi national team has not recently played against any of the world’s top 20 teams and its two-year average rank is 71. To meet the requirements of the visa, the team needs to be ranked in the top 70.
“I’m sure people aren’t happy [in Iraq], but people aren’t happy at Manchester City either,” club spokesman Paul Tyrrell said. “We genuinely don’t understand the decision. We thought the immigration authorities would take into consideration that Iraq, because of the domestic problems, would have difficulty playing against any of the top 20 countries.”
Akram is understandably upset by the denial.
“It was my big dream to become the first Iraqi player to play in the English Premier League,” the 21-year-old told Reuters by telephone from Dubai. “I have the ambition to show the skills of Iraqi players in the strongest league in the world. I will prove that Iraqi players deserve to play in any league in the world,” he said. …
Akram said his main motivation now was to help Iraq qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Iraq play China in a World Cup qualifier next month. “It’s my duty and it’s a debt I owe to the Iraqi soccer team and to my country,” he said.
Who’s to blame? According to a lot of Iraqis, it’s the Americans.
The only way to move up in the rankings is to play more, but because of the war, it has been impossible for Iraq to play any home matches.
“Thanks to the Americans, we can’t do this,” said Ahmed Abbas, general secretary of the Iraqi Football Assn. Because of the country’s security problems, he said, “we couldn’t have games in Iraq.”
“Even abroad, we can’t have games.”
Iraqi authorities have again appealed to England to reconsider the decision. Perhaps the US should pull in some diplomatic chits to make it happen, because this is not a good thing for international relations.
To see some of Akram’s skills, check out this video. I can see why City wants him.