Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Iraqi footballers stay in Australia as team leaves

AFP , SYDNEY

Three Iraqi footballers and an assistant coach failed to leave Australia with their team after an Olympic qualifier match at the weekend, an Australian football source said on yesterday.

"We are aware that there are three players and the assistant coach who did not depart with the rest of the squad," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source was unable to give the identities of the players but said he understood that they had not overstayed their visas. The rest of the party left on Sunday, he said.

"We do understand that the party was issued with three-month visas so they have not overstayed," he said.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews confirmed this.

"They continue to hold a valid visa to be in Australia," she said, adding that none of the men had lodged asylum claims.

On Saturday, the Australian under-23s defeated Asian champions Iraq 2-0 in a qualifier for the Beijing Olympics to claim top spot in their final qualifying group.

A series of visiting foreign sports figures have sought asylum in Australia in recent years.

In April, two members of the Democratic Republic of Congo's swim team sought asylum after competing at the World Swimming Championships.

About 40 foreign athletes and officials sought asylum after participating in the Commonwealth Games last year.

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