Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Turmoil in Iraq keeps star player out of EPL - FIFA rankings have consquencies

The FIFA ranking system has kept Iraqi Nashat Akram from playing in the English Premier League for Manchester City. Akram, who last July lead his national team to a shock win in the Asian Cup, was denied a work permit by the UK's Home Office because Iraq is not in the top 70 of FIFA's rankings. The current ranking used by the Home Office: 72.

How insulting is this ruling? First, a big part of the reason their ranking is only 72 is their in ability to play matches regularly due to the on going war in Iraq. The team cannot train or play in country due to fears of violence and even the process of getting the team our of Iraq for such events is grueling, yet when they do play, they normally do well.

Second, the Home Office often waves little rules as long as players are close to the requirements, as seen very recently with Eddie Johnson and national team appearances (he had only played in 72% of the US national team's competitive matches when he, by Home Office rules, needed to play in 75%). Yet, these two spots in a largely meaningless ranking system could not be overlooked for some strange reason.

However, the biggest insult of all is that Iraq is currently number 67 in the FIFA rankings (Jan '08). In fact, they have been in the top 70 since August of last year (Aug - 64, Sept - 65, Oct - 69, Nov - 70, Dec - 69). In fact, since October 2003, they have been in the top 70 for 37 of the 50 months, but that number doesn't even tell the full story as 12 of those months, (July '06-July '07), saw the team go 4-3-5, but still drop in the rankings following FIFA's changing of the ranking system.

I'm not trying to bring politics into soccer, but with everything going on in Iraq it seems cruel to deny a talented player a permit due to two numbers in a ranking system.

Manchester City says they will not give up on Akram and hope to sign him during the off season.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that this ruling by FIFA is petty and stupid, but I'm confused. Are they ranked 72 or 67?

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

For the Home Office, they use an average of their monthly rankings over the last year or so, thus their average is 72. However, their current monthly ranking for January is 67.

4:13 PM  

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