Football

We won't play politics with Bahrain-Swedish FA

Bahrain players celebrate after winning against Jordan at the Arab Games final soccer match in Doha December 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad)

STOCKHOLM: Swedish FA chairman Lars-Ake Lagrell is adamant that sports bodies should not play politics after coming under fire for agreeing to a friendly international against Bahrain.

Sweden play Bahrain in Qatar on Wednesday but have been criticised by human rights activists after Bahrain goalkeeper Ali Said received a jail sentence in early December for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations last March.

"If you are going to ask that the Swedish FA has a monitoring of every player in that way, it would be difficult to organise matches against a lot of countries," Lagrell told Reuters in an interview as he prepares to stand down after 20 years as chairman of the Swedish FA (SvFF).

"It's easy to be wise after the fact. If we'd known about that (the goalkeeper's punishment) it would have been part of the discussion (but) I know far too little about why he was in prison and it wasn't a part of our discussion.

"We made the judgment that we couldn't go to Bahrain to play - if we were to meet Bahrain, they would have to come to Qatar. When they agreed to that, we saw no obstacle."

Amnesty International spokesperson Elisabeth Lofgren called for an official protest.

"We would like to see the national team or the (Swedish football) association in some way say that it is unacceptable that someone who has taken part in peaceful protests is judged in a military trial," Lofgren told Swedish radio.

However, Lagrell said his primary focus was on the safety of his players and he added that the FA cannot follow events in other parts of the world that closely.

"Maybe I'm undervaluing these things (but) it's easy if we get a suggestion to play Norway. It's tougher if we are asked to play Iran," he said.

Lagrell took over as SvFF chairman in 1991, after Lennart Johansson was elected UEFA president, and under his stewardship the Swedish national team have enjoyed great success, including a third-place finish at the 1994 World Cup.

Lagrell has no intention of standing for higher office with FIFA or its European counterpart when he leaves the SvFF and instead hopes Johansson's successor as UEFA chief, Michel Platini, will one day head world soccer's governing body.

"Platini is regarded as Europe's man (but) I think he would do a good job. I'm probably one of those who would hope that he would accept and get the chance to do it but I'm not sure that everyone in world football shares my opinion," he added.

"(As for me) I'll always work with something in football, I've done that since I was 15. I won't take any more committee jobs but I'll help if anyone wants it.

"By the time we get to the 2012 Congress I'll be 72 and I've been active since I was 15. I think I've done my part."

 

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