Khanaqin Sports Club: Kurdistan Premiere League or boycott football association

Sulaymaniyah, March 14, 2022: Part of the match between Chwarqurna football clubs in green and Khanaqin in red in Chwarqurna stadium. Aram Bardshani

By Laila Ahmed in Diyala

A sports club is considering boycott of the Kurdistan Football Association in case it is not promoted to the Premier League in Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR following violence in a Mid-March match.

The administration of Khanaqin Football Club is discussing two options, either participating in the Iraqi Kurdistan Premier League, or withdrawing from the Kurdistan Football Association, as a result of which the club suspended all its activities and sports participation a week ago.

Last March 14, in a decisive match that brought together Khanaqin Sports Club and Chwarqurna Club in the Kurdistan League Championship, Chwarqurna was ahead two goals to one, and in the 80th minute of the match all Khanaqin players withdrew from the stadium and refused to return because of the violence they were subjected to by some of the supporters of the Chwarqurna club, which caused the injury of two players of Khanaqin.

A win or a equalizer for Khanaqin FC in that match would have qualified it for promotion to the Premier League. In the first half, Khanaqin scored a goal, yet victory was the only way to the Premiere League for Chwarqurna which managed to score twice in the second half.

Hassan Sherzad, president of Khanaqin club, declared, "We have suspended all our sports activities since March 31, because the Kurdistan Football Association approved the result of that match, and thus Chwarqurna Club to join the Premier League."

According to the decisions of the Kurdistan Football Association, in the event of a match being stopped for any reason, the match must be resumed from the minute it was stopped, but Khanaqin FC demanded the repetition of the entire match.

We are now asking for the match to be decided in our favour

"We are now asking for the outcome of the match to be decided in our favour, and for our promotion to the Premier League, because the Chwarqurna fans have practiced violence against the players and the administrative body,” Sherzad argued.

“The Football Association's argument that we fled the field is a weak argument. We assure you that if a decision is not made in our favour, we will take another position."

On March 30, based on a complaint from Khanaqin Club against the result of that match, the Kurdistan Football Association decided in the second meeting on the issue to penalize Chwarqurna Club by not allowing any of the club’s matches to be held at its stadium, however, the Union approved the result of the match in favor of Chwarqurna Club which was promoted to the Premier League, while Khanaqin FC remained in the Kurdistan league.

The disputed territories consist of 14 administrative districts, including Khanaqin, spread across the four governorates of Kirkuk, Diyala, Ninewa and Salahaddin in northern Iraq.

Khanaqin, northeast of Baghdad, is part of the disputed territories which extends from Khanaqin in Diyala province in the east on the border with Iran through the oil-rich city of Kirkuk heading to the west of Mosul in Shingal, home to Ezidi ethno-religious minority, on the border with Syria.

Sulaymaniyah, March 14, 2022: About 10,000 fans attended the match between Chwarqurna and Khanaqin, while the stadium accommodates only 4,000 only. Aram Bardshani

The Kurdish football association says its has taken procedures based on rules and regulations of the association.

Hadi Karim, Vice-President of the Kurdistan Football Association, told KirkukNow, "The decision we reached was to resume that match from the 80th minute, based on the laws of our union, but Khanaqin FC refused that and demanded that the entire match be repeated."

"Our decision to ascend Chwarqurna to the Premier League was not arbitrary, but was based on the laws of the federation," he added.

About the threats made by Khanaqin club and the suspension of its activities, Karim said, "This will not affect our decision."

"Chwarqurna FC received its punishment for the rioting of its supporters by not allowing it to play any of its matches for the next season at its stadium."

we regret such decisions and hope that they will retreat

The head of the Kurdistan Football Association stressed that Khanaqin FC's withdrawal from the Football Association "will not harm our federation, but we regret such decisions and hope that they will retreat."

In 2006, winning another match was enough for Khaqin club to advance to the Iraqi Premier League, but it withdrew from the Iraqi leagues and joined the leagues of the Kurdistan Football Association, arguing that "Khanaqin is a Kurdish city and wants to play in a Kurdish league."

Chwarqurna is one of the sports clubs that has emerged in the past few years. Three years ago, the club was playing in the third division, and this year, after defeating Khanaqin, it managed to reach the Premier League.

About 10,000 fans attended the fateful match that took place at Chwarqurna, with the highest attendance of matches in the Kurdistan leagues this year, at a time when the stadium could accommodate only 4,000.

Sherzad, believes that his club has been subjected to injustice. "They should take into account the fact that our club comes from a disputed area and should not treat us in this way."

But the Vice-President of the Kurdistan Football Association, said, "Khanaqin FC should have been relegated from the first division to the second in the last two seasons, but we helped them to survive, because Khanaqin is a Kurdish district and we consider it one of our clubs."

"The promotion to the Premier League is not forced, the game has its rules and Khanaqin FC must realize this fact.”

Khanaqin, home to Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs, was under conrol of the Kurdish forces up to Octobe 2017 when the Iraqi security forces ISF have declared thwaring the Islamic State of Iraq and Syira ISIS and ousted the Kurdish forces from the disputed territories following a referendum for independence by the Kurdish political parties. Currently Khanaqin is under control of the Iraqi government and Diyala Joint Operations Command is in charge of the security situation in the region.

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