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Thursday, January 31, 2008
Iraq to appeal Akram's work permit denial

BANGKOK, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Iraq will appeal the British government's decision to deny its top player a worked permit to join Premier League side Manchester City, the country's soccer president said on Thursday.

Midfield playmaker Nashat Akram, a runner-up in last year's Asian player of the year awards, had been unfairly treated and Iraq would push hard for the decision to be reversed, Hussein Saeed said.

'I don't know why this happened, he is an exceptional player capable of playing in the English Premier League,' Hussein told Reuters by telephone from Abu Dhabi.

'I am in regular contact with Manchester City and I have spoken with the Iraqi government to talk with the British government and appeal this decision.

He added: 'I'm confident he will get the chance to play in England.'

Akram, 23, was instrumental in Iraq's fairytale Asian Cup victory last year and impressed City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson during a recent trial in northwest England.

But Britain's Home Office (interior ministry) rejected his application for a work permit because Iraq fell outside the top 70 in the FIFA rankings, despite their Asian Cup triumph.

However, any further protest on those grounds could be tricky for City, who are trying to secure work permits for three players from 107-ranked Thailand, two of which only made their national team debuts last July.

Hussein was disappointed by the ruling but said Akram would have no difficulty playing elsewhere.

'Many, many clubs are interested in him, from all over Europe,' he said. 'But we wanted him to play in England.'

In an interview with the Times newspaper on Wednesday, Akram said the work permit denial was like a judgement against his country. 'I am upset and the Iraqi people are upset,' he said.

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