Iraqi Star Denied Work Permit, U.S. Blamed

Iraqi soccer star Nashat Akram has been denied a move to a top club in the English Premier League after British officials rejected his application for a work permit, and many blame the United States for the situation.

Akram, 24, had been playing with Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, where he was scouted by officials with Manchester City. So impressed was the club that they immediately bought out the remainder of his contract for $800,000, and the midfielder had begun training in England in anticipation of his transfer. Things looked promising until Britain's Home Office denied the application, not once but twice, citing a technicality that the Iraqi national team is ranked outside the top 70 (two-year average rank - 71), and has not played against any of the worlds top 20 teams recently.

"This is a very, very unfair decision," said the player's agent, Najim Mohammed. "We want to make good relations between Iraq and the U.K. and America. We want to show Iraqi people these people want to help give us a hand. But this is against Iraqi people. They keep the people suffering. They don't give them any joy."

Akram's skills were expected to land him immediately in the first squad at Manchester City.

"We genuinely don't understand the decision. We thought the immigration authorities would take into consideration that Iraq, because of the domestic problems, would have difficulty playing against any of the top 20 countries."

Reaction in Iraq was naturally angry, with protests and demonstrations being planned in support of Akram.

"Thanks to the Americans, we can't do this," said Ahmed Abbas, general secretary of the Iraqi Football Association. "We couldn't have games in Iraq. Even abroad, we can't have games."

Iraqi lawmaker Fawzi Akram (no relation) is asking the foreign ministry to investigate the issue.

"Highly decorated Iraqi players from different kinds of sports are prevented from entering different countries regardless of their high level of professionalism," he said. "They are trying to repress Iraqi professionals from attaining their objective and goals.

Some Akram highlights:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know that the transfer windo wis shut, but what's the word on interest from clubs in Spain, France, or Italy. It's a shame when politics rears it's ugly head into sports; so I hope he can sign with a top side somewhere else in Europe, and win the UEFA Cup over an EPL team.