Free Pass to the Persecuted

Few countries could use a jolt of nationalism like Iraq, yet the war-ravaged nation is the source of wrangling from athletic institutions.

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, banned Iraq from international competition, then reinstated it May 29. Iraq subsequently lost to Australia 1-0, but simply playing the game gave the country something to cheer about.

The International Olympic Committee suspended Iraq on June 4 because of “political interference” by the government.

(Quick jab: If “political interference” is to blame, shouldn’t the U.S. get the reprimand?

In a related news: The U.S. seeks 58 permanent bases in Iraq with immunity to prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors.)

Can’t the IOC and FIFA understand there are extenuating circumstances at play in Iraq? The IOC should receive significant pressure to lift the ban like FIFA did.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard wrote a great column this week about the push to revive basketball in Afghanistan.

Said an Afghani player after they beat Hong Kong in the 2006 Asia Games, “It was the first time [Afghani’s have] seen the flag raised in a positive manner in 20 years.”

Pass on the protocol. Be pragmatic. Give the opportunity for the persecuted to praise their nationalism through sports. It’s the least that can be allotted.

G

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