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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Iraq football turmoil: After denial comes withdrawal from Asian Games

Source in IFA initially said national team would not be removed from event and squad's preparations being finalised after completion of training camp

Iraqi supporters may yet be cheering on their football team when the Asian Games get under way in Indonesia. AFP
Iraqi supporters may yet be cheering on their football team when the Asian Games get under way in Indonesia. AFP

Iraq have withdrawn from the football tournament of this month's Asian Games in Jakarta, potentially throwing the competition into turmoil less than two weeks before kick-off.

The Iraq Olympic Committee has pulled the team from the event, according to a source in Baghdad, and the decision will leave officials needing to address an imbalance in the opening phase of the tournament.

Last week the Asian Football Confederation conducted a redraw of the competition's group stage to add Palestine and the United Arab Emirates after the pair had been left off the original entry list.

That meant two of the six groups swelled from four teams to five, but Iraq's withdrawal now means one group - containing China, Timor Leste and Syria - will feature just three countries.

The Olympic Council of Asia, the organisers of the Asian Games, have yet to respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

A source at the Iraq Football Association had initially denied reports the team would be removed from the competition and that the squad's preparations were being finalised following the completion of a training camp in the northern city of Erbil.

Earlier this week, football officials were reported to have been fired over their involvement in the selection of overage players for the nation's Under 16 team after they were stopped at passport control on their way to participate in a regional tournament.

The withdrawal of Iraq's footballers follows a decision by the Philippines not to send the nation's basketball team to Jakarta in the aftermath of their on-court brawl with Australia during a recent World Cup qualifier.

The football tournament at the Asian Games begins on August 10 and features teams made up of players 23 years of age and under. Coaches are permitted to select three overage players.

The final will be played on September 1.

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