Players are organising themselves in Iraq in an effort to improve their rights and working conditions, and to get the respect they deserve as workers and professional footballers.
FIFPRO supports the Iraqi Football Players Association (IFPA), which was founded earlier this year, and recognises IFPA as the representative of professional footballers in Iraq.
“We have been in touch with the people behind IFPA for a year now and we have noticed their commitment to supporting players,” said Frederique Winia, FIFPRO’s Director of Member Services. “We are there to guide them in developing a strong player association.”
The IFPA is led by former national team player Nadim Karim, who last month was elected as chair of the executive committee during a general assembly, where another former national team player, Osama Ali, was named vice-chair. The organisation recently opened its office in Baghdad.
“The players in our country are experiencing big problems,” chairman Nadim Karim told FIFPRO. “After they’ve signed a contract, they get paid for a few months, but then clubs often stop paying. When players don’t receive their salary, they call their club, the football association, and the league, but they don’t help them. That’s why we founded our player association, to really help them.”
FIFPRO knows about the challenging situation of players in Iraq, as it is working with the IFPA’s legal expert on more than 200 complaints about non-payment against 17 Iraqi clubs. Some players did not even get paid after winning their arbitration cases.
“A lot of our board members experienced similar problems in our country when we were playing. There was, and is, simply no respect for players in our country,” said vice-chairman Osama Ali. “Now, through our player association, I am convinced we can offer the help the players in Iraq deserve.”
The IFPA currently has more than 100 members and is about to start a membership drive while trying to educate players about their rights as professional footballers. The association is also planning to organise women’s players, with the help of board member and former women’s national team goalkeeper Shahad Hikmat.
"To FIFPRO, all players in the world are equally important, whether they are from Spain or Iraq, so of course, we are here to support the professional footballers – men and women – in Iraq fighting for their rights,” said FIFPRO President David Aganzo. “When I recently attended the FIFPRO Asia/Oceania general assembly in Thailand, I was impressed by the presentation of Nadim Karim and his team, and their efforts to organise players. I wish them good luck and will keep an eye on their progress.”