AIPS / LAUSANNE: The Asian Football Confederation has permanently banned a number of Iraqi journalists who confronted coach Jesus Casas in an “aggressive” way following Iraq’s elimination to lower-ranked Jordan in the Round of 16 at the Asian Cup in Qatar.

During the post-match press conference, some Iraqi journalists approached the stage, shouted and pointed at the Spaniard, before being ushered out by security. Iraq lost 3-2 to Jordan on Monday at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, after conceding two surprise goals during extra time.

After the incident, Coach Casas appeared utterly distraught and stated: “It seems sad to me that instead of being proud of what this team has done, of the enthusiasm it has awakened in the nation, of dedicating themselves to uniting the country once since a long time. Now that we lost, they say things that don’t make sense.

“When you win they don’t say anything, they only say it when you lose. The only thing they want to do is to taint the image of Iraq, to slur the image of the federation, my name, that of the players… I think it is not appropriate and I think that the Iraqi people are much more intelligent than that.”

The AFC stated later: “The AFC is deeply disappointed by the actions witnessed during the post-match press conference of the tie between Iraq and Jordan and has taken the swift decision to bar the responsible individuals from covering not only the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 but also future AFC tournaments. Accreditation is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to adhere to ethical standards, and those who violate these standards will face the consequences.

“The AFC strongly condemns any type of unruly and aggressive behaviour and takes a zero-tolerance stance against such actions. We believe in fostering an environment where journalists can engage in their important work of covering Asian football with professionalism and mutual respect. When faced with disruptive behaviour that poses a risk to the safety of persons at our events, the AFC will act swiftly to protect our stakeholders and the reputation and sanctity of our tournaments.

“We are confident that our response on this occasion will serve as a deterrent by sending a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

The performance of Iranian-Australian referee Alireza Faghani came under the spotlight for his decision to send off Aymen Hussein for over-celebrating, as angry Iraq fans rounded on Faghani on social media, this is why the AFC concluded its statement by:

“Separately, while the AFC does not comment on individual refereeing performances, we strongly condemn any form of threat, harassment, or disclosure of personal information targeting our referees, players, officials and all stakeholders. Such behaviour goes against the spirit of fair play and respect that we promote within the Asian football community.” The statement concluded.

Iraq’s FA also condemned the conduct of the journalists, in a statement released on X, formerly known as Twitter: “We followed with great dismay the events that took place at the press conference of our national team coach, Jesús Casas, after the match against Jordan, in a scene that was more painful than the undeserved exit of our team from the Asian Cup.

“These events have no connection to the authentic Iraqi media that is known for its honourable positions, and the behaviour that took place is a black mark in Iraqi media history, caused by certain names that took advantage of their unexpected presence at the conference.

“We denounce the blatant and abhorrent behaviour that occurred against the coach, and we confirm that we decided not to deal with these media personnel who seek to cause chaos in the future.

“We will follow legal methods to restore the coach’s reputation and approach the relevant authorities to explain what happened.

“We are taking further steps to preserve the image of the national team, and to achieve the goal that we set, with unlimited support from the Prime Minister, the government, our loyal fans, and our professional media, which does not approve of these actions that harmed Iraq and insulted the coach.”