An ugly and public spat between Iraq internationals Yaser Kasim and captain Younis Mahmoud has reached boiling point with both players today releasing statements and throwing barbs at each other
The issue came to a head after Kasim left early from Iraq’s camp in Thailand last week, with differing versions of events being peddled by both camps.
One version has it that he left due to a fragile state of mind after missing out on a transfer from Swindon Town in the dying hours of the European transfer window. His father, however, claimed on Iraqi TV that his son left due to outside influences in selecting the team.
Kasim released a statement on his Facebook page early this morning (Australian time).
“A lot of lies and factual untruths have been told about me the last few days,” he said.
“The truth is the decision was made based on the three choices. To accept the situation, to the change the situation or to remove myself from the situation.
“Right now the National team is controlled by a few individuals who are only there to serve themselves, they have built a system in which intimidation and fear is used to control the National Team. This I could not accept.”
“To change the situation, we must all work together to help one another. Let’s not forget that is exactly what I had asked for previously. The situation unfortunately has still not changed, the past seems to keep repeating itself.
“Finally I had to decided to remove myself from it all. I came to this without happiness or sadness, without fear in any atom of my body. I had have had enough.
“Now what is the situation exactly? The situation is as bad is it gets, from the bad organisation to even worse communication. This includes the privacy of the players during camp, so comically highlighted with a leaked video from the team’s hotel in Bangkok.”
Kasim then singled out Mahmoud for his role in the saga.
“This can only come from a place of fear. I can see why they are scared because they do not want the truth to be told. Younis has previously spoken about me and continues to do so without any apology. Attacking my integrity. This is not acceptable.”
Within hours the 32-year-old Mahmoud, who just last week signed for Al-Talaba, responded with a statement of his own.
“It is with deep regret the accusations made against me by team-mate Yaser Kasim,” he said.
“I did not attack anyone, on the contrary, I was involved in ending the problem and you (Kasim) returned to the team at the Congo match.
“Now you’re asking me for an apology for things that did not happen knowing that it was over three months ago.
“As Iraqi captain, I announced through my official site that I appeal to the Football Association and coaching staff to open an investigation committee with the players, if there is one player (that) shows that (he) does not want my presence in the team, I will announce my retirement immediately.
“I personally regret what I read as my colleague and I have had with him the beautiful memories especially at the Asian Cup in Australia. I hope Yaser amends his decision and apologize and pay attention to those around him who have caused him this crisis. We need him, Iraq is greater than titles (names).”
Further allegations of abuse and intimidation by Mahmoud and other senior members of the Iraq FA towards “expat” players, like Kasim and Denmark-based Ahmed Yasin, were made by Iraqi Pro Players, an unofficial group who scout players of Iraqi origin from around the world, in a lengthy statement released last week.
While it has been widely reported Kasim has retired from international duty, he did leave open the possibility of returning if things change.
“I will always be there for my national team as a fan first and foremost and as a player,” the 24-year-old said.
“I do not know what the future holds. But I will always be there for my country. Change will come because that is what life teaches us will happen, let’s not create division but unite in trying to do a good job of it.”