Syria disqualified despite defeating Tajikistan on the pitch (Source: AP Photo)
By James M. Dorsey
World soccer body FIFA has barred Syria from competing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after the country’s national team fielded an unnamed ineligible player in in a qualifying match against Tajikistan.
"The Syrian team is disqualified from the competition, losing their second round knockout phase by forfeit. These decisions are final and binding and not subject to appeal," FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA said Tajikistan would be allowed to compete in Syria's place.
The ineligible player was fielded in both legs of Syria's Asian qualifying second round tie against Tajikistan on July 23 and 28. FIFA ordered that Syria be registered as having lost each match 3:0 to Tajikistan despite Syria having won them on the pitch on a 6:1 aggregate.
The banning of Syria is likely to be one of embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s least problems as he struggles to suppress a five-month old popular revolt with increasing brutality. Syria, moreover, had little chance of making it to the 2014 finals in Brazil.
As a result of the banning, Tajikistan will play in the third qualifying round of qualifying in Group C alongside Japan, Uzbekistan and North Korea. The team’s first game against Uzbekistan is scheduled for Sept. 2.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.