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Iraq team members
Iraq team members

Iraq Football Hit by Age Fraud Scandals

Iraq Football Hit by Age Fraud Scandals

With players banned from travel, executives sacked and a national squad that just withdrew from the Asian Games, Iraqi football is paying the price for a string of age fraud scandals.

Nearly five months ago, FIFA breathed life back into Iraqi football by lifting a three-decade ban on the country’s hosting of international matches, AFP wrote on Tuesday.

But a series of cases of alleged age fraud has put Iraq’s international football reputation back into jeopardy, with players and coaches warning that authorities have long turned a blind eye to cheating if it will bring home a win.

Karim Saddam, one of the country’s football legends, said the Iraqi Football Association “tries by any means, by any cost to have teams achieve victories and to take credit for it”.

To do so, he said, “It will turn a blind eye to teams that have players with forged IDs”.

The first tremor hit on July 30, when players on Iraq’s under-16 football squad were banned from taking off for a regional tournament in Jordan.

Undeceived by the players’ hairless cheeks, Baghdad airport officials found that nine members of the team had falsified ages on their passports.

The IFA quickly dismissed the team’s officials, who players said had instructed them to shave to look younger. It also promised to take action against “players who falsified their age”.

To avoid a $30,000 non-participation fine from the tournament, Iraq’s under-14 team was sent to play in their stead.

On August 1, Iraq’s under-23 squad dropped out of the Asian Games - set to begin later this month - after activists took to social media alleging 17 of the team’s 23 players had lied about their age.

 Heavy Fine

The team faces a possible $100,000 fine and a potential ban from the next edition in 2022.

Just days later, authorities dissolved the country’s under-19 team, expected in Indonesia this fall for the AFC Championship finals. Officials said the squad would be regrouped once player IDs were thoroughly screened.

Sports authorities in Iraq have tried to contain the crisis by announcing new checks and insisting that they had been caught off guard by the scale of the problem.

But “people who follow Iraqi football know very well why Iraq has withdrawn from the Asian Games”, said Hassan Ahmed, coach of Iraq’s first division Al-Naft club. “It’s out of fear that a second scandal will break out after the under-16s.”

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