World football’s governing body FIFA has threatened to suspend Iraq over persistent delays to elections for its football federation’s leadership, according to a copy of a letter obtained by AFP on Friday.
The letter, signed by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Dato Alex Soosay, warns that if Baghdad does not hold the elections as planned at the end of the month, the governing bodies may decide to impose a suspension.
“Please be informed that should IFA (Iraqi Football Association) not complete its election process by 31 May 2014 (sic) then this matter will be referred to the relevant body to take appropriate measure against IFA, which may include immediate and indefinite suspension,” the letter dated May 7 read.
The IFA had originally planned to hold elections for its board, as well as for a new president and vice president, in January, but these were delayed until April 20, and then again until May 31.
FIFA and the AFC said in their letter that in the lead-up to the planned election last month, “the AFC representative received threatening phone calls during his mission.”
The IFA last held contested elections for its leadership in 2011, with claimants alleging multiple problems with the vote in its wake.
The claims were made by IFA general committee members including defeated candidate Falah Hassan, and ranged from accusations that the IFA failed to hold a preparatory meeting before the elections and violated FIFA rules regarding the election of new committee members.
The IFA is currently headed by Najeh Hmoud, who won the disputed 2011 elections over Hassan, a candidate who was unofficially backed by the government.
Although FIFA insists that football must be free of politics, in Iraq politics permeates nearly everything, especially football.
In July 2013, FIFA barred Iraq from hosting international friendlies due to a surge in violence, reversing a decision three months earlier to allow the country to host such matches.