Football: Prince Ali criticises FIFA over Middle East treatment

Football: Prince Ali criticises FIFA over Middle East treatment
Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein (C) and Prince Hashem (R), son of his brother King Abdullah, watch Jordan play against Japan during their 2014 World Cup qualifying match.

FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein has criticised football's world governing body FIFA for banning Iraq from hosting home internationals and called upon the organisation to do more for supporters in the Middle East.

Iraq hosted friendlies against Syria and Liberia earlier this year after FIFA lifted a previous ban, but it was reintroduced in July over security concerns in the war-torn country where two suicide bombers killed 60 people in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday.

The 2007 Asian champions have long had to deal with the problem and hosted a majority of their 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Qatar and take on Saudi Arabia in a 'home' Asian Cup qualifying match in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Tuesday.

"I would like to emphasise that Iraq should be able to host friendly matches, whether in the south or the north," Prince Ali, also the president of the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF), said in a statement on Tuesday.

"There are other countries facing similar issues but are given the green light, there is no reason to exclude Iraq at this point."

Prince Ali, who has held his FIFA seat since 2011 and led the campaign to overturn the organisation's ban on the hijab and allow Muslim women players to wear the Islamic headscarf, was also frustrated by the Swiss-based body's attitude to his region.

Last month, Middle East media reported that Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were unhappy and 'seeking a rectification' after FIFA changed how they described the Gulf region on their website, replacing'Arabian' with 'Persian'.

"Allow me to stress that it is crucial for FIFA, which comprises more than 200 richly diverse members, to be mindful and respectful of cultural sensitivities," Prince Ali said. "Respect of other cultures is indeed one of the core values of our beautiful game.

"Moreover, I would like to add that it is about time FIFA embrace the Arabic language as an official language, spoken by more than 300 million people in 22 Arab countries; all of which are members of the football governing body."

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