ANDREW FARRAN. Middle East World Cup – match schedule unravelling – a report.

The Middle East World Cup should be advancing towards the Finals but the match schedule is in disarray due to disqualifications and suspensions.

After a poor start Syria has knocked out its immediate opponents, thanks to some doping on the part of the Russians. The Kurds in their critical last round were tripped going for goal and the umpire did not award the free kick they deserved that could have won the qualifying match. It seems that there was also interference from the boundary on the part of the Turks. ISIS was under the impression that it had been admitted to the competition and in a nasty fit tried to spoil everyone with fireworks outside the arenas.

The big boys (Turkey and Iran) are now lining up for the next round. Although the Americans and Russians aren’t recognised as players, they are actively recruiting support for their proxies who are looking good at this stage and were expected to be in the Final. But the off-side outsider, the Saudis, have managed to recruit some skilled corner kickers from the Gulf. They will be a challenge for any goalie.

You might ask what happened to the Iraqis. Pity to say that since their last game their team has fallen apart. Indeed they may break up into several sides, each of which will only be good enough to play in the Iranian domestic league. The Kurds are reported to have offered them games on the basis that the winner takes territory. Where might that lead? As for others they say that, in any event, the Iraqis should be disqualified for bringing in unregistered players from Iran. Such cheating should be stamped out from these rule- based games. It has been noticed that their friends, the Australians, who are very committed to rule-based systems, have refused to give up on them even though this involves resolving so many contradictions with their commitment as to put their heads into a spin. Their association, while repeating that they are acting absolutely independently, are waiting for instructions from somewhere else. Recently they complained about being sore at the hip.

Meanwhile Israel has been sending drones over the various arenas making hyena calls to the players in an attempt to put everyone off their game, so far with some success. Mr Grumpy in Washington has been asked to call them off but so far to no avail.

Recent intelligence is indicating that the Syrians are now thinking of withdrawing as there is so much wreckage in their changing rooms that their players can’t find their strip, notwithstanding that they had an offshore team in Australia recently that nearly put the Aussies out of the big (for them unattainable) World Cup in Russia.

Anyway the Russians are hoping that only very wealthy countries will qualify for the big Cup as they will need to rip them off to cover the cost. Sport is expensive – losses have to be recouped, unlike with wars.

Back to the Middle East games. What can be said about Iran and Turkey at this stage? Both are a bit uncertain about developments in spite of their hold over Cup officials. Iran fears that the Americans might abandon their nuclear agreement which has allowed them to concentrate on football instead of atomic reactors in recent years. What if the Americans, showing no principle, allow the Turks a free hand to meddle with others’ training schedules and exceed the recruitment cap to everyone’s disadvantage? More seriously, Iran may withdraw from the competition altogether because of Iraq’s disqualification, which would give the Saudis a free card. This would suit the Brits because they have a lot surplus equipment not required for their Premier League to flog off to a favourite customer in the Arab world.

It can’t be said that all is well with the crowds either. It seems that in spite of the shouting and bluster there isn’t much of a mood for the competition after all. It comes from exhaustion, war without end. If only everyone would stick to the rules, they are saying. We’ve heard the Aussies have been called in to advise on a rules-based system. They are only providing trainers of course, not players. You understand!

Andrew Farran, former diplomat, legal academic, woolgrower,

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