AFC rejects Iran’s protest over Asian Cup quarterfinal
SYDNEY (AP) — The Asian Football Confederation has dismissed a protest from Iran over its quarterfinal loss to Iraq in the continental championship, saying the complaint over the eligibility of Alaa Abdulzehra was unfounded.
The AFC disciplinary committee held an emergency meeting Sunday, on the eve of the Asian Cup semifinal between South Korea and Iraq in Sydney, and gave Iran the opportunity to produce evidence to support its claim that Abdulzehra should have been disqualified for the quarterfinals last Friday due to an alleged doping infraction while he played for Tractor Sazi last year in in the Iranian domestic league.
“The disciplinary committee heard oral evidence from two (Iran) officials, deliberated the matter based on its merits, and decided that the protest was unfounded,” the AFC said in a statement. “The protest was, therefore, dismissed.”
In a dramatic quarterfinal match, Iran twice scored equalizers in extra time to force a draw before losing 7-6 in a penalty shootout to the 2007 Asian Cup champions.
Abdulzehra denied he was subject to any doping sanctions, and Iraqi football federation chief Abdul Khaliq Masood said the midfielder’s position in the team shouldn’t be in dispute.
“When (Iran) filed the objection we knew our position and the player position is correct,” Masood said. “Alaa Abdulzehra does not have any punishment from FIFA or the Asian federation. This allegation I think is not correct, because if he have any punishment they should (have) sent us a letter with his international card and mentioned that the player (was) being punished, and the reason for the punishment.”
Abdulzehra denied using any banned performance-enhancing substances, and said the Iranians were looking for excuses for their quarterfinal loss.
“This case should not be raised. Since I started playing football I don’t have any issue like this, I never drink anything illegal, and if I need to take any (medication) I always ask the team doctor,” he said. “The Iranian team should be better than that. If a team can’t beat you on the pitch, it should not try to find other excuses.”
FIFA declined to comment on the case, saying it was under the AFC’s jurisdiction.