Guam seek FIFA intervention over Iranian visa stand-off

Guam’s fairytale start as Group D leaders in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers is in danger of being derailed, with the Iranian Football Federation continuing to delay issuing the authorisation code required for the team to obtain visas for their match on September 3.

FourFourTwo understands that the Guam Football Association (GFA) has written to both the AFC and FIFA requesting their immediate intervention in an issue that has the potential to see the crucial World Cup qualifier called off, should the required authorisation code not arrive in the next 24 hours.

GFA first made contact with their Iranian counterparts in early June requesting assistance in processing the team’s visas, but have had numerous roadblocks placed in their way since.

Initially the plan was to process the documents at a training camp in Qatar, but that had to be scrapped after the IFF suggested instead that the team send their passports to the Pakistan embassy in Washington where they were to be processed.

The players’ passports have been with Guam’s Delegate to the US House of Representatives, Madeline Bordallo, for the past two weeks awaiting the issuance of the code, which would then allow the visas to be processed at the Pakistan embassy.

The delay has also meant the team’s coach, Gary White, was unable to travel to Kuala Lumpur for the AFC’s National Team coaches seminar on Tuesday, where his Group D counterparts, Carlos Queiroz, Paul Le Guen and Stephen Constantine, are all in attendance.

Guam is in a unique situation in that all their players are US passport holders and there has been a long-standing enmity between the two nations that some believe may be behind the current impasse.

Further complicating matters is that the national teams of both Chinese Taipei and Japan, who are due to play matches in Iran on September 3 and 8, have already had their visas approved.

White has called the delay bizarre and unacceptable and questions whether Iran are running scared of a nation ranked a full 105 places below them.

“It’s outrageous that the top ranked team in Asia has treated us with so little respect,” White told FourFourTwo on Tuesday. “Our office began this process months ago when they received my training periodisation plan for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers as soon as we knew our opposition back in April, after the draw was completed.

Guam coach Gary White is stunned by Iran's apparent stalling tactics

“The uncertain situation that they’ve placed us in could negatively affect our preparation and I’m surprised and a little bit embarrassed that a so-called major player in Asia seems to be running scared of our team.

“Obviously the whole world took notice of our results, winning our opening two matches (against Turkmenistan and India), and with us five points clear of Iran now this could be a case of them being a little bit fearful of a side on the rise.”

Iran also made a late venue switch for the upcoming match, abandoning their usual home at the Azadi Stadium Tehran in favour of the regional city of Karaj, located at an altitude of almost 1400 metres. White sees this as another ploy from a team fearful of his outsiders.

“I don’t understand why someone with the standing of Carlos Queiroz in world football would be standing by and allowing these ridiculous antics to be happening,” he said. “This is not fair and we are not impressed at all. 

“I just don’t believe it’s the right way of going about things, it’s not professional, but I guess when under pressure football associations can panic.”

FFT understands that if the authorisation code isn’t issued within the next day, Guam will seriously consider requesting the match be rescheduled or the points awarded to their side.