Kurdish-Shiite row erupts at Iraqi football match

Zakho Sport Club. (Zakho club website)
Updated 17 December 2016
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Kurdish-Shiite row erupts at Iraqi football match

BAGHDAD: Two clubs from Iraqi Kurdistan announced on Saturday their withdrawal from the country’s football championship in protest at anti-Kurdish chants during a match against a Shiite club.
The match itself was briefly suspended after Irbil’s players walked off when home club supporters in the Shiite city of Najaf south of Baghdad chanted slogans associating the Kurdish regional capital Irbil in the north with the Islamic State jihadist group.
Iraqi television, which was broadcasting the match, cut the audio to block the chanting.
“We called our players off because of the slogans... which the Najaf public was chanting against Kurdistan and its political figures,” Abdallah Majid, a director of the Irbil club, told AFP. 
“This is unacceptable and has no place in sport,” he said, adding that Irbil was pulling out of the championship until “a decision is taken at the political level.”
A second Kurdish club in the Iraqi league, Zakho, withdrew in solidarity with Irbil.
The Iraqi football federation issued a statement apologizing to Irbil and calling for punitive measures to be taken over the incident.
IS fighters seized swathes of Iraqi territory west and north of Baghdad in 2014, including areas bordering autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iraqi federal forces, Shiite militias and Kurdish peshmerga fighters in mid-October launched an anti-IS offensive to try to recapture the northern city of Mosul.
But strains remain between Kurdistan and Baghdad over oil resources in northern Iraq and the scope of autonomy.
Iraq’s football federation has for years been lobbying the sport’s world governing body FIFA to lift a ban on the country hosting international games because of security concerns.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).