Iraq's 'Miracle' Soccer Team to Be Restored

Soccer's governing body FIFA lifted the international ban on Iraq, allowing Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Australia to go ahead.

FIFA had suspended Iraq on Tuesday over what it said was government interference in the domestic running of the sport by dissolving the national Olympic committee and all sports federations.

The ban was provisionally lifted just hours before a Thursday midnight, Sydney local time, deadline after FIFA said it received documentation from Iraqi officials which explained the situation.

"FIFA received a letter from the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Iraq, confirming that the IFA had been 'excluded' from the above-mentioned decree, thereby re-establishing the statutory order of the Iraqi association and its leaders, who will 'continue their activities inside and outside Iraq until legal election'," FIFA said in a statement.

However, FIFA said that more meetings would be scheduled with Iraqi officials in Zurich and that the ban could be re-imposed if certain criteria were not met.

"This letter is a positive step, however it does not fully answer all of FIFA's concerns about the governmental attempts to control the Iraqi federations and the Iraqi National Olympic Committee," FIFA said. "Therefore, FIFA has decided to lift the suspension imposed on the IFA, but on a purely provisional and conditional basis."

A delegation comprising members of the Asian Football Confederation, Iraqi Football Association, the Iraq government and FIFA will meet "as soon as possible to clarify all outstanding issues.

"FIFA will continue to coordinate the steps it has taken with regard to the IFA, a body that is an important member of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, with the efforts taken by the IOC to ensure that the Olympic Charter is applied to the entire Iraqi Olympic and sporting movement."

The statement was released as FIFA president Sepp Blatter walked into the opening ceremonies for the 58th Congress, comprising representatives of all 208 member nations, at the Sydney Opera House.

Blatter did not comment on the matter, but had said earlier in the week that he was confident Sunday's qualifier between Iraq and Australia would go ahead in Brisbane.

"This is great news," Football Federation Australia chief Ben Buckley said. "We're truly delighted that the Iraqi Government, the Iraq FA and FIFA have sorted out the issues between them and the Socceroos and Iraq can get on the field to play this important match.

"It has always been our hope that the games could go ahead as they are critical matches in Australia's World Cup qualification preparation, and playing football is what we're here for."

The return Group 1 match will be played in Dubai on June 7.

The Iraqi squad arrived in Australia late Tuesday, despite the provisional suspension, after a 2-1 upset loss in a friendly against Thailand last weekend.