Whilst Katanec announces his squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers with Iraq taking on Hong Kong in Basra, then playing Cambodia away from home, some Iraqi fans will be asking why there is such a shortage of expat players present the squad.
Firstly, lets examine the term ‘expat’ – The Iraqi FA seem to see their own players who happened to be born outside of Iraq as a separate group of players to those who were born and started their professional careers in Iraq. This group are referred to as ‘expats’, despite the fact that they are all Iraqi and wear the same shirt when representing their country. Examples of expat Iraqis include Ahmed Yasin, Justin Meram and Frans Putros. You might also seen these players referred to as ‘mughtarabeen’, or ‘expatriates’.
What is starting to become abundantly clear as a result of the large number of Iraqi expat footballers emerging across the globe is that the Iraqi FA have placed a quota on the number of expats allowed to be chosen by the manager at any given time. Take today’s squad announcement by Katanec: Ahmed Yasin, Justin Meram, Jiloan Hamed and Rebin Sulaka are four expat players selected to fill the quota Katanec has been restricted by.
Let’s rewind to the last game Iraq played against Bahrain and again, we see an pattern of only four expat players being selected; Ahmed Yasin, Justin Meram, Osama Rashid and Rebin Sulaka. If we examine the Iraqi squad who played in the 2019 Asian Cup, we find that it was Frans Putros, Ahmed Yasin, Osama Rashid and Rebin Sulaka who were selected.
The Iraqi FA is blatantly limited the number of expat Iraqis chosen to represent the national team. It has been suggested that this is the result of budget restrictions, where the FA are unwilling to spend money on long-haul flights. Given that Ahmed Yasin and Rebin Sulaka both played in Qatar, and both were selected as part of the four man quota, this is unlikely to be the reason. Likewise, Ali Adnan is flown from Canada to represent his country, and he isn’t considered to be part of the ‘expat’ group, despite his current club.
Ali Adnan recently stated that, on paper, Iraq are one of the best teams in Asia – and he’s right! However, think about the number of players Iraq are missing out on during these upcoming fixtures through the simple fact that we are excluding players because of their ‘expat’ status in the squad. Osama Rashid, Yaser Kasim, Rewan Amin and Frans Putros are just some of many Iraqi expats who should be chosen regularly for the national team but find themselves on the fringes as a result of this racist quota imposed by the FA on its own countrymen – embarrassing. We could have a star-studded squad, but instead, we’re playing substandard players like Amjed Atwan and Alaa Abdulzahra who have been tried, tested and failed, simply because they are seen as ‘locals’, or ‘mahhaliyeen’, Since Justin Meram and Ahmed Yasin are always chosen as part of the expat quota, we are only really left with two slots to allocate to trying other players, which is an unnecessary hindrance and will put off future players from choosing to represent Iraq. The long-term impact this quota will have on Iraq may be astronomical and we only have the corrupt Iraq FA to blame.