The Los Angeles Times has a lengthy article on the misfortune of Iraqi soccer star Nashat Akram, one of his country's most popular players, who was recently denied a work permit that would have allowed him to sign for Manchester City of the English Premier League. The news spread across Iraq on Saturday, angering the soccer-mad masses, including Iraqi government and sports officials. Akram was an integral part of Iraq's monumental victory in the 2007 Asian Cup. The midfielder was voted most valuable player of the final match against Saudi Arabia.
"This is a very, very unfair decision," said Akram's agent, Najim Mohammed, who suggested the decision was politically motivated. "We want to make good relations between Iraq and the U.K. and America. We want to show Iraqi people these people want to help give us a hand. But this is against Iraqi people ... They keep the people suffering. They don't give them any joy."
Akram lost the appeal on a technicality: to meet the requirements for a work permit, a team needs to have a two-year average FIFA ranking of 70. Iraq's average rank is 71. Additionally, a team needs to have played matches against the top 20 countries in the world during that time period. "We genuinely don't understand the decision," said Manchester City spokesman Paul Tyrrell. "We thought the immigration authorities would take into consideration that Iraq, because of the domestic problems, would have difficulty playing against any of the top 20 countries."