Iraq - Blatter Standoff puts Socceroos Match in Doubt

It's a very complicated situation and I've been working at trying to get to the bottom of it, and while I think I have it right, I accept that I may be missing some things.

Basically, here it is:

Last week, the Iraqi government disbanded the national Olympic committee. Reportedly most of the members were living abroad and the rest were helping themselves to large amounts of other people's money. Nothing was getting to the athletes.

So they disbanded the organizing committee and called for immediate new elections from among the various federations.

Unfortunately, the Iraq Football Association (IFA) is organized under the charter of the Iraq Olympic Committee, and thus was also rendered leaderless by the decision, which is particularly damaging not only because of the team's recent success in a football-mad nation but also because, as the team is made up of players from across the religious spectrum, is a unifying symbol of great force in the country at large.

As we all know, Sepp Blatter does not take kindly to what he calls "government interference" in soccer, and he has issued a one year suspension against the IFA, effectively canceling not only the sold-out Australia-Iraq match scheduled for Brisbane on Sunday (the Iraqi team is already there on the ground) but also taking them out of World Cup qualifying.

However, over the last 24 hours Blatter has been making conciliatory noises, telling reporters in Australia that he believes the game "will be played" but not explaining how.

For their part, the Iraqi government, which has presumably been made aware that in recent months several countries, including Spain and Greece, have been suspended for similar "government interference", is working on a compromise which separates out the IFA from the Olympic Committee, since the IFA was not really the target of the action to begin with; it just got caught in the crossfire.

For his part, Blatter doesn't want this kind of a stink right now, with the FIFA Congress set to convene - coincidentally - in Australia; a Congress which, as we all recall, he is hoping will back him in his "6+5" decision. He needs all the friends he can get.

Along those lines Blatter, after months of insisting that the high-altitude ban will stand, has suddenly done an about-face on the issue and has agreed to "suspend" the rule indefinitely.

Since this is an issue of great emotional importance to CONMEBOL - and it's bevy of FIFA Congress votes - a cynic might suggest that a deal has been struck whereby Sepp gets the votes and La Paz gets it's qualifiers.

But of course we know that sort of thing could never happen. Right?