ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish sports teams and players are the latest victims of the ongoing crisis between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq.
Two basketball teams from regions under siege by Iraqi security forces will miss the start of the Iraqi league season due to security fears.
Iraq’s basketball federation suspended matches for a team from the town of Zakho, and another from the Kirkuk Province, which was recently overtaken by Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
Khaled Najm, the Secretary-General of the Iraqi basketball federation, according to AFP, said the games were canceled because “it isn’t in the interest of the teams or players to travel outside Kurdistan.”
“We’re following how things play out and the teams will return if the situation gets better,” he added.
Football teams in the Kurdistan Region are also affected by the recent disputes. With the 2017-18 Iraqi Premier League set to begin on Nov. 20, Zakho Sports Club coach Sakfan Said admitted he was uncertain if his team would participate in the new season.
“We don’t know if we will take part in the championship,” the manager said. “It is very important for us to play in the league, but we are ready for all outcomes.”
Meanwhile, the Erbil Club’s president Abdullah Majid was hopeful his team would be involved in the new season after they withdrew last year following anti-Kurdish chants in the Shia city of Najaf.
“We want to take part, and we have prepared our players, but I cannot guarantee anything,” he told AFP.
The club’s stadium is one of three approved by world football’s governing body FIFA to host the Iraqi national team’s international matches due to security risks in the rest of the country.
Amid all the uncertainty, Iraq’s volleyball federation has placed all the teams from the Kurdistan Region into a sub-division of their own.
Although it remains uncertain how that would work in the long run, the federation’s president Manaf Fadel said it would ensure players and teams did not have “to go to other towns in Iraq.”
Editing by Nadia Riva