Iraq cleared to play in AFC Asian Cup semi final

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The Asian Football Confederation has officially dismissed a protest by the Football Association regarding the eligibility of Iraqi player Alaa Abdul Zahra.

After Friday night’s controversial quarter final in Canberra, the Iran FA officially lodged a protest with the AFC claiming Abdul Zahra had failed a doping test during his time with Iranian club Tractor Sazi and was therefore ineligible for this tournament.

The protest cast a cloud over ’s ongoing participation in the tournament and the Iran team stayed in Australia after their loss awaiting the official verdict of the AFC.

That verdict came through early this evening at the exact moment the Iraq official press conference was taking place.

The statement from the AFC reads:

The AFC Disciplinary Committee met on 25 January 2015 following a protest lodged by I.R. Iran Football Federation on 23 January 2015 regarding the eligibility of Iraqi player, Alaa Abdul Zahrah Khashen Al-Azzawi, to participate in the quarterfinal match between I.R. Iran and Iraq on 23 January 2015.

The AFC Disciplinary Committee from 2:30pm heard oral evidence from two officials of the I.R. Iran Football Federation, deliberated the matter based on its merits, and decided that the protest was unfounded. The protest was therefore dismissed.

Due to the urgency of the matter, the terms of the decision were initially notified to the I.R. Iran Football Federation at 6:20pm. The full grounds of the decision will be communicated tonight in due course. The I. R. Iran Football Federation will have the right to file an appeal in accordance with the AFC Disciplinary Code.

The decision means that with 24 hours until kick off, Iraq can now fully focus on their crucial semi final against Korea Republic, a rematch of the 2007 semi final which Iraq won on their way to being crowned Asian champions.