Arbil’s Croatian coach declines to travel to Baghdad

Iraqi champions Arbil have confirmed their Croatian coach Rodion Gačanin refused to travel to Baghdad for his club’s league game against Al-Kahraba, noting the ‘racist’ and ‘sectarian’ chants at the club’s previous match in the Iraqi capital as the reason.

The reluctance of the Croatian coach to supervise his club’s league match in Baghdad comes after the Iraqi champion’s last visit to play Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, where Arbil were thrashed 3-0 at the home of the Baghdad side.

Arbil club secretary Mahmoud Aziz told Shafaq News “Rodion declined to attend the league match against Al-Kahraba because of the events that accompanied the recent match between Arbil and Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. The match affected the morale of the Croatian, who assured us that he came to practice his role as a coach in a country that loved sports, but he was surprised to what he saw before the Jawiya fans,” pointing out that Omar Majeed would lead the team.

He added that “The Arbil board are demanding an end to the racist chants by the masses, and invites them to resolve this issue before they fester and become a phenomenon.”

The noted match, played in last month went ahead without any major incidents, apart from the usual partisan atmosphere from the victorious Baghdad crowd.

The Croatian gave a post match interview on the field to Al-Iraqiya Sport, but did not mention any incident, with his only reservation being the state of the pitch.

The earlier encounter between the two sides in Arbil however witnessed the home fans attacking the Al-Jawiya team bus, with several of the club’s players left injured.

Arbil Sports Club are considered to be the Chelsea of the Iraqi league, who with a rich benefactor bankrolling them, have become one of the most successful clubs in Iraq in recent times, winning four league titles since 2007.

However with that success has come much resentment from rivals supporters who argue that the Iraq FA –with the influence of the FA’s vice president Abdul-Khaliq Masoud “Al-Mulla”, a board member at the Arbil club – have favoured the Yellow Citadel, allowing them to postpone key matches to their advantage and bypass rules and regulations that other clubs have to adhere to.

Arbil media spokesman Rebin Ramzi told Al-Akhbariya , that the club board had ‘threatened’ to withdraw from the league if there were repeated ‘racist’ and ‘sectarian’ chants in league matches.

Related story: Arbil fans attack Al-Jawiya team bus


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