Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 20 News List

FIFA: New Zealand refuses to grant Fiji 'keeper visa

COUP The Fiji team will be without their first and second-choice 'keepers after Simione Tamanisau was refused entry because of his links to the military

AP , WELLINGTON

Fiji soccer goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau has been refused entry to New Zealand for a World Cup qualifying match on Saturday under travel sanctions imposed by New Zealand's government since last year's military-led coup in Fiji.

A spokesman for New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters confirmed yesterday that Tamanisau had been denied a visa because his father in law is a member of the Fijian military.

Visas have been granted to all other members of the Fijian squad which will play New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday in a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup.

New Zealand has refused entry to members of the Fiji military and their families under travel sanctions imposed since a coup last December brought armed forces commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to power.

"It was only yesterday afternoon that a decision was taken that we will give everyone a visa other than the one player," the foreign minister's spokesman said.

"The goalkeeper was clearly covered by our sanctions regime. New Zealand is a sovereign nation which has the right to decide who enters New Zealand and who doesn't," he said.

Fiji has complained to soccer's world governing body, FIFA, over the visa ban, saying it will play Saturday's match at North Harbour Stadium under protest.

FIFA has stated the match should go ahead as long as visas allow the Fiji team to arrive in New Zealand by Thursday.

Fiji Football Association president Dr Sahu Khan said the New Zealand government decision was "grossly unfair" and amounted to "bullying tactics."

"I have written to FIFA to tell them we are playing under protest, and if need be I will take this matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne," Khan told the press.

The Fijians will be without their top two goalkeepers for the match after Tamanisau's potential replacement received a red card in a recent match and was banned for one game.

The New Zealand immigration ministry rushed through visas for the Fijian team when the World Cup qualifier was brought forward by five weeks from its original date of Nov.17, leaving Fiji with less than the one month period usually needed to process applications.

"We agreed to speed up the process because it wasn't really anyone's fault," an immigration ministry spokesman said.

Saturday's match is part of an Oceania qualifying series and is vital to both teams' hopes of progressing toward the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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