The Truth behind the dissolution of the Iraqi FA: The rise and rise of the FA president
When Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli sat down to pen his masterpiece Il Principe (The Prince) in the early 16th century, a guide on how to acquire and maintain power, the kind of individual with the traits of Iraqi FA president Hussein Saeed would not have been far from his thoughts. Whether living under a brutal dictatorship or a developing democracy, he has always managed to remain at the top, while seeing his contemporaries fall. For several years under his leadership as president of the FA, scandals have come and gone but it seems that nothing will stick to the Teflon prince.
Hussein keeps good company, with the likes of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam and FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President Jack Warner counted as close and trusted associates of his. All have immaculately squeaky-clean records on corruption, bribery and financial irregularities (thanks to a string of highly paid lawyers behind them).
The Model Student
He had been the Iraqi national team’s star striker at the time of Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, and was revered by millions for his crucial goals he scored, guiding Iraq to the Olympics on three occasions and their only World Cup qualification in 1986. He broke records for the most goals and caps for the national team, which still stand to this day. When Saddam’s eldest son Uday entered the football scene in the mid-80s, Hussein was still a key member of the national team but his fame and popularity made him virtually immune from Uday’s sadistic incarcerations and floggings at the times of defeat. While he was one of the few players in the 80s like Olympic president Raad Hammoudi that were not forced by Uday to join his club Al-Rasheed in the early 80s, something that Iraqi fans of today still ask questions of.
At the height of his playing days, a slim-lined Hussein would often be seen sitting beside Uday at key sports gatherings and events and in 1990 he finally became a fully-fledged member of the Uday’s inner circle when he was ‘elected’ into the FA (while he was still a player). He would loyally serve as Uday’s right hand man until the last days of Saddam’s regime in the FA and the Olympic Committee, carrying out the FA president’s orders which included gathering ‘taxes’ from foreign based professionals. Recently, documents dating from 2002 emerged of money being paid to Hussein by the old Iraqi Intelligence Services for his work in gathering information on exile athletes who had fled from the oppression of Saddam’s dictatorial regime. What was even more revealing was that respected coach Najih Humoud, vice-president of the FA and coach of Al-Najaf at the time was paid $100,000 US from sales of barrels of crude oil, to spy on his players and other individuals.
But as soon as his old master fell and the US tanks rolled into Baghdad, his allegiances quickly switched. Hussein along with the late Ammo Baba, Ahmed Radhi, Husham Atta Ajaj, and Raad Hammoudi who had been living in exile in Jordan since the late 80s and was recently elected as president of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, met with retired US General Jay Garner appointed to run an interim post-war administration in the post-Saddam era. They had been invited by US officials to a meeting at the Al-Adhammiya Sports Club, the same district where Saddam had supposedly greeted locals on April 9, the same day Iraqis toppled his statute with the help of US soldiers at Fardus Square that was dramatised on the TV screens all over the world.
Days after the meeting, former national players Raad Hammoudi and Ahmed Radhi were granted powers to represent football in Iraq and abroad and Hussein Saeed, a Baath party member was out of the picture. Ahmed Radhi had been close to Uday but was not considered to be part of the old regime, unlike the former Talaba captain. There had been rumours that there had conflict between Hussein Saeed and Ahmed Radhi this was rebutted by Ahmed Radhi in an interview with Al-Jazeera stating Hussein was not given a mandate to represent Iraq at the Arab meeting after he had lost his job in the Iraqi FA and Olympic committee after it had been dissolved by Garner. The order issued by the retired US General said that the sports committee under the old regime served as “an instrument of torture, repression and corruption” and that it was a front for a number of Uday’s businesses.
Trying to get himself involved in the new football hierarchy, Hussein persistently contacted the senior advisor of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, Don Eberly, wanting to lead football in Iraq in a meeting of the Arab Football Federation in Riyadh, that Eberly had to cut off communication with the former vice president of the FA. A four-man delegation consisting of Ahmed Radhi, Raad Hammoudi, retired Brigadier General Ahmed Abbas, a former assistant general secretary of the FA under Uday and Abdul-Khaliq Masoud, the head of football in the city of Arbil was sanctioned by the US administrators of sport in Iraq to represent football in the country. Hussein’s days in football looked numbered. However he had influential friends in high places like FIFA president Sepp Blatter and AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam, and was present in Riyadh in his capacity as a member of the AFC, in which he was a committee member. On his return to Baghdad, the AFC asked him to form a six-man committee that would take charge of football in Iraq for a period of three months. On Al-Hurra TV’s Sport Studio show broadcast on October 17, 2008 senior adviser to the minister of Youth & Sports, Basil Abdul-Mahdi claimed that Hussein Saeed had forged a letter dated May 26, 2003 from FIFA member Jérôme Champagne to the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Don Eberly stating various lies that gave him a three month mandate until elections were held, that 3 month mandate became 12 months. Prior to receiving the letter, Eberly had been reluctant to give Hussein, a say in the running of the game in Iraq. On June 18, 2003, a temporary interim Iraq FA was formed with Hussein Saeed as president, Ahmed Radhi as vice president, and members Najih Humoud, Basim Jamal, Ahmed Abbas, Abdul-Khaliq Masoud, the late Abid Kadhim, and Alaa Ahmed.
Now in the hot seat on a temporary basis, he began to ally himself with key figures in the FA and the Olympic Committee, becoming especially close to US poster-boy Olympic president Ahmed Al-Hajia. The big story came in early May 2004 when Hussein’s closest rival for the presidency Ahmed Radhi, was arrested along with ex-IFA general secretary Basim Jamal after allegations that they had thrown hand grenades at the home of the FA president. The police detained the pair on Sunday May 16, while a police source added that IFA President Saeed had accused Radhi and Jamal of making an attempt on his life. The source, who preferred to not give his name said that the arrests had happened on the Sunday evening and were held at a police cell in the Amariyah district in the west of Baghdad, that dealt with major criminals. Ahmed Radhi and Hussein Saeed had clashed the previous month over the issue of Olympic striker Younis Mahmoud, who had a six-month suspension hanging over his head after his outburst at the end of the World Cup Qualifier against Palestine and Nashat Akram. Radhi had made several decisions on the affair without authorisation from the FA President – leading to the vice-president and general secretary losing their jobs. All the charges were dropped and Ahmed Radhi was released. He went onto become a politician in the Iraqi parliament in 2007 and may run for the FA presidency this July.
After months of speculation over the new FA, elections were finally held in Baghdad on June 27, 2004 with Hussein Saeed being named as President, the sole candidate despite speculation that Ahmed Radhi would stand as a second candidate. There were rumours that other candidates had threats on their lives and their families if they stood, prominent figures such as Ahmed Radhi, Abid Kadhim and Raad Hammoudi did not stand. The two vice-presidents were Najih Humoud and Basim Hamed Al-Rubaie. The job of general secretary went to Ahmed Abbas, with Abdul-Khaliq Masoud also getting a place in the association as treasurer. Other members were Tariq Ahmed, Kadhim Mohammed Sultan, Ibrahim Qasim, Sami Naji, Mohammed Jawad Al-Saeigh and the late Dr.Hadeeb Majhoul (replaced by Hadi Jawad after he was assassinated in 2006). Hussein had been heavily criticised from both outside and inside Iraq for his actions as the interim president. Uday’s former right hand had taken over the FA and changed little employing the Baathist old-guard back into the FA, a move that even had Iraq’s coach at the time, the German Bernd Stange speculating whether he was the right man for the job. After the war it seemed Hussein’s days in football were over but after FIFA reportedly declared that they would only deal with the former World Cup star, the CPA relented and kept him in the set-up.
The president rode on the wave of the Iraqi team’s successes at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, however by 2006 things had begun to get too dangerous after he seemed to have gained new enemies. His long-term ally Olympic president Ahmed Al-Hajia was kidnapped in May 2006 (presumed dead) and Hussein feared that he would be next and left for Amman, where he still resides. His administration consisted of low-profiled sports figures, non-that would overshadow the name and the accomplishments of the FA president or challenge his authority over key decisions. In his absence in the Iraqi capital, members Najih Humoud and Abdul-Khaliq Masoud become his two most trusted disciples, running day to day things inside of the country. “Al-Mulla” Abdul-Khaliq, is the small overweight, moustachioed, cigar-puffing treasurer, with his sticky fingers in a lot of pies. Nicknamed ‘Kaka Chocolate’ after his laughable appearance on Al-Kass wa Al-Dawri show Al-Majlis when unable to answer any questions over the Iraqi team’s problems at the 2009 Gulf Cup, switched from talking football to eating and talking about chocolates to the amusement of the guests present and viewers watching at home. A man that always seems to try to avoid paying at all costs, once went on TV seemingly proud that the FA had not signed contracts with its last two national coaches, Egil Olsen and Adnan Hamad and then made contradicting remarks on the FA’s annual budget. Before the war, he was only a representative of the Arbil province to the FA and wielded little authority however over time Al-Mulla, with his hand on the FA’s bank accounts, become so powerful that, he once turned to then national coach Akram Salman to order him to substitute a player and even sat on the bench of the Iraqi team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens taking the place of the team doctor! His critics, primarily rivals clubs in the Kurdistan Region have grown bitter over the FA’s perceived favouritism towards the Iraqi champions during the past few years citing allocated funds, favourable decisions and fixture lists. In the last league game of the season, second placed Duhok played Arbil at the Duhok Stadium. Local fans held up a banner from the fans of Pires and Duhok ‘asking who the FA president was, Hussein Saeed or Abdul-Khaliq Masoud’. The banner was taken away by stewards along with the two supporters however Arbil refused to return to the field and after 30 minutes the referee had to call off the game. Under FA rules, Duhok should have been awarded a 3-0 win and the three points, but the FA did not award them the victory or the points.
The other FA member Najih Humoud has been working in the background, less public than the more flamboyant Al-Mulla. “Abu Salam” was once the coach of Iraq for a spell in 1999, after Uday had been impressed with his work as coach of provincial club Al-Najaf, a job he had held from 1993. He had led the club to top five finishes in five out of six seasons as well as lifting the Umm Al-Maarak Cup in 1998. After the war, he turned from coaching to administration, being elected into the FA and chairing as president of his hometown club Al-Kufa. One of the reasons for the sudden change in career may have been that his new job in the FA had a more sense of importance than working as a club coach or that he feared his old links with the ex-Iraqi Intelligence Services would eventually re-surface. Incidentally it is worth noting that since the end of the war, the former coach has had no association with his ex-club.
The fiasco over the naming of Younis Mahmoud as the national team’s new captain in 2006, the 2-0 defeat to Singapore and the suspensions that came after, made people question the credibility of the FA and its president. Then came the 2007 Gulf Cup in Abu Dhabi. With seconds left on the clock of the final group game, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were through to the semis, even with Iraq losing 1-0 but then came the heartbreaker when a last minute goal from Bahrain’s Alaa Hubail put his side in the semis at the expense of Iraq. Some players like Hawar Mulla Mohammed wept while others stood stunned not believing that they had been knocked out. Though the defeat was made even more hard to swallow for the loyal Iraqi fans coming from all corners of the globe to support their team in Abu Dhabi, when rumours circulated around the stadium that there had been a secret agreement between the Saudi Arabia and Iraq, reminiscent of the ‘arrangement’ made between Austria and West Germany that sent a talented Algerian team at the 1982 World Cup in Spain on a plane home to Algiers. The captain of the Iraqi team Ahmed Kadhim confirmed the speculations on the Iraqi satellite channel Al-Baghdadiya, the revelations shocked viewers tuning in. He told stunned presenter Muwafaq Abdul-Wahib that five hours before the game, the coach had given his team talk, and told them that the game plan was organised to end in a draw, and told his players not to attack, but to defend. He added that the players on yellow cards would be replaced in the second half, to prevent them from getting a caution and miss the semi-final though suspension. Iraq’s key midfielder Nashat Akram, had received the news a day earlier, just before the team’s light training session. The player had been injured in the previous game, and was asked if he would be fit to play in the Saudi game. He replied that his leg still hurt, but the coaching staff were not worried and told him that it was ok, because they had agreed with the Saudis that the game would not end in a win for any team, but in a draw. News reached the player, that the game would end in a draw, and but they did not know how to prepare for the game. But from the opening minutes it was clear, the Saudis were not aiming for a draw, as they scored a penalty after a dubious decision from Emirate referee after only ten minutes, Iraq then went down to ten men. The Iraqis with one or two reserve named in the starting line-up pushed forward, and missed a hat-ful of chances in the second half, while on the bench Nashat Akram had to persuade coach Akram to put him on, in a last ditch attempt to salvage a point for them, but in the end it was not enough.
At the final whistle, the Iraqi captain asked assistant coach Rahim Hamed what had happened, and was told that there was an agreement between Hussein Saeed, Akram Salman and the head of the Saudi delegation Prince Sultan bin Fahd, that the game would end in a draw, and that they, the Saudis gave the Iraqi team chances to score in the second half but they did not take them. Saudi strikers Malik Mouath, and Yassir Al-Qahtani were even asked by the Iraqi captain and they said that they had not heard of such a deal. Stories of match-fixing or secret arrangements have been known to happen in football in the Middle East as Iraqi fans know, though nothing at this scale. For decades fans have heard stories of Iraqi players being propositioned by rich sheikhs to take it easy on their players in matches at the Gulf Cup, those were the days of Iraqi teams trashing ‘minnows’ such as Oman, Bahrain 5-0 or 6-0. But the so-called arrangement made by Hussein Saeed, Akram Ahmed Salman and their Saudi counterparts rocked Iraqi football community, and people called for their heads. Emad Mohammed was interviewed by Iraqiya TV, and was asked about the game. “As players we must play for a victory, but this was asked of us, do not play for a win, do not play for a win. The game will end in a draw we were told. That was asked of us, to play for a draw. That was the preparations made by the coach”. When asked, who should be blamed he replied “the coach, the coach is responsible for the defeat, even if there was an agreement, you do not tell the players to play for a draw. You let the players play for a win”. One outspoken critic was squad member Razzaq Farhan, not used by the coach for any other three matches. In an interview with Al-Iraqiya Al-Riyadhi satellite channel, he said “This is the first time in my career as a national player that I have come across this kind of thing, that the coach asked his players not to play football… The players didn’t know what to do in the game, whether to attack or defend. The Saudis played a good game, and they did not look like they were playing for a draw”, he added by saying that Hussein Saeed, and the coach had ‘sold out Iraq’, and called for their heads. Only a day before the game at the pre-match press conference, the Iraqi coach had laughed off suggestions of playing for a draw with the Saudi counterpart Marcos Paquetá. The ripples were felt right to the top of the Iraqi government when Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki announced an investigation into the defeat. In a press conference in Arbil, coach Akram said “Yes, we played for a tie and hence there is nothing shameful in that” as he had wanted to avoid playing the hosts UAE and play Oman. But added “The difficult circumstances which the Iraqi team was preparing in would had affected the technical level of the players one way or another, but this dose not change the responsibility that I should bear as the trainer of the Iraqi national team.” On April 17, 2007, the FA’s ‘fact-finding’ committee which had conducted a two-month long investigation found that Akram Ahmed Salman had done nothing wrong before the game against Saudi Arabia, and that there was no such agreement between the IFA and the Saudi FA to play for a draw. The Iraq FA stated that there had been ‘miscommunication’ between the coach and his players, and also recommended that Akram Salman should be replaced as coach. The three players Ahmed Kadhim, Emad Mohammed and Razzaq Farhan were suspended by the Iraq FA for two years for their part in spreading ‘false allegations’ about the FA President and the national coach. The euphoric Asian Cup victory in Jakarta three months later saved their jobs and concealed the limitations of certain FA members.
They then went onto select Egil Olsen over Asian Cup winning coach Jorvan Vieira – not because of his coaching credentials but on the belief that the Norwegian could attract sponsors to pay his own contract. When this did not materialise, they attempted to get the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Norwegian FA to pay the wages of Olsen and his assistant, fellow countryman Otto Ulseth only to find out that the Norwegian Foreign Office would only provide financial and technical co-operation to aid youth and womens football in Iraq. Honorary NFF president Per Ravn Omdal later told Olsen that the Iraq FA expected to have financial assistance in order to pay the wages of the Olsen and Ulseth. However after the NFF had calculated the finances of the FA and the number of people they employed, they came to the conclusion that the FA were not bankrupt and were not in need of any financial aid to pay the wages of their coaches. Both Olsen and his assistant took pay cuts until the FA had enough funds through a sponsor or other investments to pay the rest of their contract. However they did not sign new contracts (Hussein Saeed had insisted that the new agreement would extend to their old contracts). After a 1-1 draw with China in a key World Cup qualifier and no sponsors to pay the wages of Olsen and assistant, the duo were sacked and are reportedly still waiting for payment from the FA.
In the summer of 2008, the Iraqi government dissolved the Olympic Committee and other sports associations, including the Iraq FA forming an interim committee headed by the Minister of Youth and Sports Jassim Mohammed Jafar for three months until elections were held. Bashar Mustafa, acting president of the disbanded Iraqi Olympic committee, disputed the allegations of corruption and rigged elections and said they were politically motivated. The government had stepped in after Mustafa had prepared to order a decree to give him a mandate to lead the Olympic Committee for another four years without elections! Both the AFC and FIFA called on the Iraqi government to reinstate the Iraq FA, while a letter from FIFA’s General Secretary Jérôme Valcke to the Iraq FA pointed out the breaches of FIFA statutes which would result in a suspension or a ban from the World Cup. The FA was reinstated at the last minute and Iraq was allowed to continue its World Cup campaign until the ‘mighty’ Qatar knocked them out.
The war of words between the FA and the Olympic Committee-backed by the Ministry of Sports and the Iraqi government over the elections have dragged for over a year with no clear solution – with the FA president using delaying tactics in attempts to keep hold of his job. Elections had been announced to take place after the 2008 Olympic Games, until that was delayed and then FIFA president Blatter announced that they would begin in July 2009 but that was until an intervention from the FA president pleading for another extension. On July 10, 2009 the FA announced that there would be no promotions or relegations for the 2009-2010 season, with 43 clubs making up the top division of the Iraqi league, seen as a cynical ploy by the FA president to gain as many votes for the upcoming elections.
End of the Road
On October 9 last year in Baghdad, representatives of 22 premier league clubs met with Olympic president Raad Hammoudi, Ali Al-Dabbagh and Dr. Ali Abu Al-Shlon, a member of the committee overseeing the elections and representative of the Ministry of Youth, to discuss the upcoming elections. Majority of the clubs demanded elections to be held as soon as possible and after the meeting, Al-Dabbagh was authorised to oversee the elections that was to be held on October 30, with the 2009-2010 league season suspended until elections were held. “It is not acceptable that the election should be postponed four times. Enough with this situation. The elections will take place on October 30. We have been very patient with the FA despite its errors at the financial and judicial levels” declared Al-Dabbagh. He also announced that sports federations Law No.16 (dated 24/02/1986) which would allow the authorisation of the President of the Iraqi Olympic Committee to cancel any resolution and dissolve any sports federation would govern the elections. This however was considered a violation of FIFA statutes. The FA president came out fighting in a phone interview on Al-Baghdadiya TV stating that the meeting headed by Al-Dabbagh was illegal, and that the decision that were made had no legitimacy and that only the current FA could make any legitimate decisions on the subject of the elections with the approval of FIFA.
However Hussein Saeed was always seemingly one step ahead. According to local sources while in Johannesburg he had attempted to gain a further FIFA mandate until October 2009, which had infuriated newly elected Olympic President Raad Hammoudi. The FA president had submitted a request to extend the FA’s work until October 31 that had been signed by FIFA’s General Secretary Jérôme Valcke on June 10 in South Africa with a copy of a letter from AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam to adopt the resolution. Then at FIFA’s Executive Committee meeting on September 29, the FA was granted until April 30, 2010 to adopt new laws and hold elections, this was announced publicly by FIFA on October 28, and stressed that the work of the Iraq FA should be without external interference from government authorities to force elections. FIFA added that they would not hesitate to refer the issue to FIFA Emergency Committee to suspend Iraq’s membership, if the autonomy of the FA was not respected.
The walls were closing in on the FA and two weeks after the Ministry of Youth and Sport warned the FA against any attempts to postpone elections, Ali Al-Dabbagh announced that an investigative committee had been formed to look at administrative and financial irregularities of the President and the members of the FA from June 2004 to 2009. On Sunday, November 1, the Iraq Olympic Committee voted on a primary motion to dissolve the Iraq FA and form an interim committee to manage the Football Association until elections were held. A further vote was held days later, with eight out of the 11 members approving the decision to dissolve the FA, and on November 16, Samir Al-Mousawi, treasurer of the Olympic committee flanked by members Zuhair Nouri and Maisa Hussein, declared at a press conference in Baghdad that the FA had been dissolved because of ‘alleged financial and administrative irregularities and the repeated delaying of elections’. “When we took this decision, we bore in mind all the consequences of suspension or punishment, but we are working from now to get out from this situation, God willing.” He added that the FA had been dissolved in accordance with Article 12, paragraph 13, law No.20 (1986) of the Iraqi Olympic Committee as amended and a temporary board would be named until elections could be held in accordance with Article 8, of the sports federation law no.16 of 1986.
The committee had come to its decision, according to Al-Mousawi because of the administration providing false and misleading information to discredit the general situation in the country to gain extensions from FIFA, which they had repeated in 2008 and 2009 that did not reflect the reality of the objective conditions and progress, covering various areas of life, especially after the establishment of elections of various bodies and institutions of sport. Also mentioned that its failure to hold general meetings for the duration of the FA and not to authorise the administrative and financial reports, which violated the sports federation law and the rules of procedure of the FA as well as the lack of co-operation with regulators with regard to disbursement of the budget of the FA and the failure to answer queries on administrative matters, financial and technical addressed by the competent authorities and according to the law of Supreme Audit No. 11591 on 2/9/2009. And also indicated the failure to answer questions in the Olympic Committee’s inquiry on the amounts deposited outside Iraq and the need to transfer to a bank account in an Iraqi bank, according to article No. 485 on 30/4/2009 of the IOC. And lastly that there were many financial and administrative irregularities regarding the activities of the internal and external of the FA that there was a need to form an investigative committee under the customs clearance No. 31451 on 18/10/2009. The committee indicated no objection from the 22 premier league clubs and clubs questioned the functioning of the FA activities, the size of the league and no promotions and relegations for the new league season, according to a statement submitted to the Olympic Committee. The absence of the FA president in Iraq for a long period of time without any legal justification and not attending any meetings of the administrative body in Iraq, according to records sent to the Olympic Committee as well as the resignation of four members, which had destabilised the structure of the FA and the negative impact on its performance were also factors that gave the Olympic Committee no choice, as one club president noted ‘as doing the lesser of two evils’.
Najih Humoud stated that the Olympic committee had no authorisation to dissolve the FA and that it contradicted laws of FIFA. The decision despite opposition from the FA and FIFA was met by overwhelming support from the Iraqi football community, from club presidents to fans on the streets from Duhok to Basra. Two days later, police seized control of the FA’s offices and was placed under protection of the security forces until a provisional administration appointed by the Olympic Committee could take over. Najih Humoud and Tariq Ahmed were pictured outside the FA headquarters frantically making calls on their mobile phones to find out what was happening. The following day, FIFA gave Iraq a 72-hour deadline to reinstate the FA or risk an international suspension. However the Iraq Olympic Committee declared that it would not change its decision regardless of the consequences, And on November 20, FIFA had no choice but to suspend the FA from international football until the decision of the Iraqi Olympic Committee was revoked, the FA was reinstated and the offices were returned to the FA. FIFA regarded the current members of the FA Executive Committee as the sole recognised interlocutors. A week later the Olympic Committee named an interim FA administration headed by Hadi Ahmed only for it to backtrack and reinstate the old regime led by Hussein Saeed.
Allegations of corruption, fraud and bribery are now coming to light with authorities holding hard evidence against the FA president and his cronies. There have been discrepancies in the FA’s bank accounts according to Samir Al-Shuwaili the director of Central Sports in Iraq, who had been working on the case against the FA. Only last month the FA president went to an Iraqi court to clear his name over remarks made by Al-Shuwaili in the Al-Mutamar newspaper over claims that Hussein Saeed received one million dollars from AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam for his vote in the recent AFC presidential elections. The lawyers ruled in favour of Al-Shuwaili and ordered Hussein to pay a fine of $5,000 US and all other court expenses, and according to Al-Shuwaili his claims are only the tip of the iceberg (Though no concrete evidence has been presented to the public).
The corruption, misuse of funds and the overall lack of progress made by the FA to improve the local league facilities and youth football were some of the criticism thrown at Hussein Saeed by his doubters. While the level of the national, youth and junior teams have declined over the years. Over the last five years, members of the FA have filled their pockets and continuously complained of a lack of funds, this is despite lucrative sponsorship and TV contracts worth $1 to 2 million having been signed by the FA over the two years and an annual budget has been allocated by the Ministry and Sports for the running of the FA while home nations such as the UAE and Oman have picked up bills for the national team and the other Iraqi team’s in their training camps abroad.
The FA has also found new ‘inventive’ ways to gain funds. A new FA transfer ruling states that 15% of a player’s contract should go to the FA. This rule is not much different from one of the laws under the old FA headed by Uday, when a foreign based Iraqi players had to hand over as much as 60% of their contract to Saddam’s eldest son. This illegal statute scuppered Nour Sabri’s move to Swedish club Syrianska FC earlier this year, when his new club refused to pay the fee for the player’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC) card. At first it had been agreed between the player’s representative in Sweden, Hakim Jassim that they would pay a fixed amount of $ 3,500 US for the period of one year, that was agreed with Abdul-Khaliq Masoud. The money was transferred to one of the FA’s accounts in Amman but they received no answer, he spoke to Tariq Ahmed and explained the situation and he told them that the delay was routine procedure and that he needed to consult with Najih Humoud. He then contacted Hussein Saeed and was reassured that he would send the ITC card after the agreement with Abdul-Khaliq Masoud and Tariq Ahmed of $3,500 but explained that he had received nothing. Going around in circles he contacted Najih Humoud and informed him that everything had been agreed with the FA president over the fee, however he told him Nour would have to pay the rate for 29 months as stated in the contract, and the FA would not stand down from their demand, whether it was Hussein Saeed or Abdul-Khaliq Masoud and asked him if he had someone to pay the percentage amount out of his own pocket instead of Nour! The request of a fee came after three weeks of talks between the player and the club with the player having been presented at a press conference as their player. However four days later, the two and a half-year contract was cancelled and Nour returned to Baghdad. There was also an issue over the 15% fee over Mohammed Kasid’s transfer to Cyprus, with the club declining to pay the fee. In the end, it was agreed that the goalkeeper would pay the fee from his own contract. Under FIFA rules it is illegal for a national Football Association to demand a fee for sending a player’s ITC card to the club’s respective national FA. There have also been more sinister allegations made against the FA, on players making payments to certain members of the FA to maintain their place in the national side, seen by many outsiders as a reason why the Iraqi national squad has changed so little over the past three years.
The ineptness of the FA in its handling of the case over Qatar’s ineligible player, nationalised Brazilian forward Márcio Emerson Passos, was a matter of contention for many Iraqi fans. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) threw out the FA’s appeal because of the late payment of the appeal fee by 11 days. Had the fee been paid in time, Iraq would have advanced to the second round ahead of the Gulf State. The late payment was blamed on the FA’s inability to understand when their appeal had begun. The confusion appeared between the correspondence between the IFA and FIFA, with Iraq stating that FIFA did not acknowledge the admissibility of the appeal until July 1, 2008, however the CAS panel checked this and stated that in the panel’s view that the letter on July 1 ‘shall be interpreted as a warning in good faith made by FIFA to the Iraq FA to prevent it from incurring further costs, taking into account that it was almost sure that if the appeal was submitted to the FIFA Appeal Committee, it would be dismissed due to the lack of payment of the appeal fee in due time’. There was also the case of North Korea’s Olympic keeper, Ri Myong Guk. The player had played against Iraq in a 0-0 draw in an Olympic qualifier in Pyongyang. The FA submitted an official objection to FIFA over the use of the keeper complaining he was over the age of 23, and had changed his date of birth and the spelling of his name Dok to Guk to take part in the Olympic qualifying rounds. Ri Myong Dok had taken part in the preliminary rounds of 2006 Asian Games in Doha, where his official date of birth was recorded as 02/02/1984, however the official papers the North Korean submitted to the AFC for the Olympic qualifying rounds had the player’s date of birth as being 09/09/1986. The player had also played in the 2004 Olympic Qualifying rounds for North Korea. FIFA threw-out the FA’s claim and Iraq were out of the competition. Iraq would have qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing if the appeal had been successful. The FAs administrative failures came to light once again when the Iraqi Under-16 were disqualified for using a player that had participated in a previous Asian U-16 Championship qualifiers a year earlier after an appeal by Saudi Arabia, with AFC regulations prohibiting any player from taking part in a previous edition of a qualification or final competition. The appeal was accepted by the AFC and Iraq were disqualified with the Saudis being awarded a 3-0 victory and going on to qualify for the finals of the Asian U-16 Championship in Uzbekistan at the expense of Iraq.
Hussein and the FA have blamed the interference from the government as having been politically and sectarianly motivated. The world, seemingly ignorant of the FA’s actions over the years have swallowed its lies, as have FIFA, who seem to be ready to bail them out by handing out extensions left, right and centre, whether it is because of government interference or because it is not safe to hold elections in Iraq (this despite every sports federation in the country having held elections since last year). The current FA has been in power from 2004 and if FIFA had their way, elections would be held in April 2010 that would mean that Hussein Saeed would have held the presidency for six years! When elections should be held every four years.
When does a democracy become an elected-dictatorship?
Football fans the world over should ask the question. Are national football associations not held accountable for their own actions? Is it right that corrupt and fraudulent FAs and individuals should be immune from the law of their respective lands because of the statutes of the world football governing body FIFA state that there can be no outside interference in national associations? And who is FIFA answerable to?
When Uday was ousted in 2003, he left a vacuum in sports in Iraq; the ex-president’s eldest son retained sole authority over sports, holding the presidency of the FA and the Olympic Committee. He had also dissolved the Ministry of Youth & Sports in the late 80s. Today we have three bodies that claim it has jurisdiction over the other, something that should have been resolved by sports administrators after the 2003 war. The Iraqi Olympic Committee is the most powerful sports body in the country and runs the rule over every sports Iraqi federation, however it should not have the legitimately to dissolve any sports federation or undermine their authority. Each sports association should retain its independence whether it is from the Ministry of Youth & Sports or the Olympic Committee.
The current situation created by the FA administration has come to this. It is not the fault of the Olympic Committee that this has occurred, nor the Iraqi government, as most people would like to think. Had the democratic process been practised by the previous FA and elections been held last year, Iraqi football would not be in the mess that it is in now. It is the age-old problem of people at the top, wanting to hold onto their positions for as long as possible. FIFA have been oblivious of the goings on in Iraq, and what its recognised ‘interlocutors’ have been doing.
Will Hussein Saeed see another day, well maybe, but he is not by any means, the sole obstacle or hindrance to the advancement and progression of football in Iraq.
Elections are set for July 24 of this year.