ESPNSTAR.com columnist Jesse Fink believes FIFA's intervention in Oman only shows the double standards of football's world governing body.
By Jesse Fink
It's time to explode this myth that politics and football don't mix. They do. Each and every day. In every part of the world.
Yet FIFA perpetuates a fiction, as we have seen this week with the threatened expulsion of Oman from 2014 World Cup qualifying, that "all FIFA member associations must manage their affairs independently and without influence of any third parties, as clearly stipulated in articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes".
Omani football is on a knife edge because a court order has annulled last year's Omani Football Association elections, which were supervised both by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.
The action was brought about through a complaint by three clubs, Oman, Seeb and Muscat, and a private citizen, Suleiman bin Ali al Balushi.
"FIFA stresses that article 64 of the FIFA Statutes state that recourse to ordinary courts is, as a general rule, prohibited and that all FIFA member associations must ensure this stipulation is adhered to by their members," it said in an official statement.
"Should the aforementioned award of the Administrative Court materialise, the matter would be referred to the relevant FIFA bodies to take appropriate measures, which could extend to an immediate and indefinite suspension of the OFA. Such a suspension would jeopardise the participation of Oman in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and in other international competitions, and would also mean that neither the OFA nor any of its members or officials could benefit from any development programme, course, or training from FIFA or AFC while the OFA is suspended."
Now I'm sure there's something a bit iffy going on in Muscat. FIFA is right in spirit to condemn a court intervention if the OFA election process was sound.
Thirty-five Omani clubs have voiced their support for the OFA. The court order is being appealed to the Supreme Judicial Council in the Middle Eastern sultanate. The Sultan himself is the chairman.
But it's time for some plain talking: FIFA applies double standards.
It took them months to say anything about the crisis that enveloped Bahrain football in the wake of pro-democracy protests in the kingdom this time last year that saw the Hubail brothers of the men's national team put through the punitive wringer. Only after the United Nations denounced their arrests. And only because there were FIFA presidential elections coming up. The AFC, meanwhile, said diddly squat.
The nexus between politics and Iranian football is well known though very few people inside the country are prepared to go on record and say what is really going on in football inside the Islamic Republic. Nothing much has changed since FIFA banned Iran for a few months in 2006 for government interference. It effectively turns the other cheek.
As James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, recently pointed out for The Huffington Post, a government attempt in March to remove Iranian Football Federation president Ali Kafashian constituted "the second time in as many months that a Middle Eastern government [had defied] world soccer body FIFA's ban on political interference in the beautiful game".
Dorsey was referring to entrenched government interference in Egyptian football. On Iran he went so far as to allege the country's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "micro managed" the IFF and was "using the judiciary" to get the apparatchiks he wanted in positions of power. Ahmadinejad has even admitted he "must intervene personally" in the IFF's "destructive issues".
What has FIFA done? Nothing.
So cheers for intervening in Oman's crisis, Sepp Blatter and Co. But apply that tough love to all member nations of the FIFA family, including the 46 you have in Asia.
Consistency, after all, is just as important as transparency.