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Soccer guys gripe to FIFA.

The Iran Football Federation (IFF) has filed a formal complaint with FIFA accusing the English team Charlton Athletic of canceling a match with Iran for political reasons--even though Charlton denied any such thing.

The Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) last week said Charlton told Iran it was canceling a scheduled friendly match on orders of the British government.

A furious Charlton spokesman called the assertion "rubbish." He said Iran and Charlton had never been able to finalize plans for a match, so there was nothing to cancel, and that the British government had never contacted the team.

Ali Kafashian, president of the IFF, said Charlton was lying. According to ISNA, he said he has "documents" proving the English team canceled because of the recent missile tests by Iran. Those documents have not been produced.

The letter to FIFA, the Swiss-based governing body of international soccer, also complained of Egypt canceling game. Egyptian news reports said Egypt canceled a scheduled friendly with Iran because Iran had announced it was making a film lauding the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

ISNA quoted Kafashian as saying, "Although the FIFA Charter clearly states that political issues should never be involved in soccer, Charlton and Egypt canceled their scheduled games [for political reasons]." reasons]."

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Iran was suspended briefly last year by FIFA for violating the Charter rules against political interference when an Iranian vice president fired the president of the Football Federation and tried to himself become president of the IFF.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi, the Kenyan national soccer team announced it would happily play a match against Iran in Tehran August 3. It said Iran was paying all the expenses for the trip.

Iran coach Ali Daei was quoted as saying, "Whether we like it or not, sport has become intertwined with politics and sport is being used as an instrument in the hands of politicians."

The U.S. Secretary of State has opposed such intertwining. She seeks to promote athletic exchanges with Iran. Last year, she arranged for funds to pay for the U.S. wrestling team to visit Iran. And this very week, the Iranian Olympic basketball team is in the United States playing American teams, including two professional league teams.

Meanwhile, the Tehran professional soccer club Persepolis announced it was canceling a training trip to Spain where it was to play three Spanish clubs. Club spokesman Majid Farrokhzadeh said the trip was canceled because the team could not obtain Spanish visas for all the players. But the Fars news agency speculated the trip may really have been canceled on orders of the Iranian government because two Spanish teams, citing technical reasons, have canceled friendly matches with the Iranian national team.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 25, 2008
Words:451
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