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Sectarian Slogans Push Two Kurdish Teams to Withdraw from Iraqi Premier League | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Former Brazilian soccer star Zico (L), the new national coach for the Iraqi football team, trains the team in Arbil, about 350 km (220 miles) north of Baghdad August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ )

Baghdad- Kurdish teams Erbil and Zakho announced withdrawal from the Iraqi Premier League following the match between Erbil and Najaf team, Friday.

During the match, the fans were reiterating anti-Kurds calls. Najaf team hosted the match on Friday and won 1-0, however the game was paused for a period of time due to withdrawal of Erbil team players as an objection over the fans’ calls.

These incidents, actually, threaten the Iraqi’s pursuit to raise the embargo imposed on it by the FIFA.

The decision to withdraw from the league was taken due to the sectarian and political slogans which were intentionally used by Najaf fans, according to Erbil Manager Abdullah Majid. “This act is rejected and has nothing to do with sports,” added Majid.

Najaf team fans shouted that Erbil belongs to ISIS in a hint to the fact that ISIS has laid hand over a wide space of the country since 2014.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Iraqi Football Association decried the language used by some of Najaf team fans. “These phrases negatively impacted the country and reflected a foreign culture that contradicts with the history of Iraq,” added the statement.

Despite the apology of the association to Erbil, yet the team’s manager stressed that he will not return to the league unless there is “a political decision from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani”.

The association also pledged to impose toughest penalties regarding the irrational behaviors and phrases used in the last match in order to put an end to that.

“We apologize to Erbil management, players and fans,” added the statement.