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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Fiji match pulled over visa row
Fiji goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau
Tamanisau has fallen foul of sanctions imposed after Fiji's coup
Football's ruling body, Fifa, has postponed a World Cup qualifier between Fiji and New Zealand due to a visa wrangle involving Fiji's goalkeeper.

New Zealand denied entry to Simione Tamanisau for this weekend's match because of his father-in-law's links to last year's coup in Fiji.

Fifa said the game should not go ahead without Fiji's goalkeeper being allowed to take part.

New Zealand and Fiji are due to meet again in Lautoka, Fiji on Wednesday.

New Zealand Football chief executive Graham Seatter said talks were under way to see if that return match would be played, and if not, the two games would have to take place next year, possibly in a neutral venue, Reuters news agency said.

But he said Fifa had indicated "that this is a relatively trivial matter for a visa not to be granted".

Oceania Football Confederation general secretary Tai Nicholas told reporters: "Football is a truly global game and to have a match involving political interference would set a bad precedent."

New Zealand imposed sanctions on Fiji's military regime and their families following a military coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama that deposed Fiji's elected government last year.

Simione Tamanisau's father-in-law is a military police officer.

Sahu Khan, head of the Fiji Football Association, called the decision not to issue a visa to Tamanisau "grossly unfair".

"For the New Zealand government to say that we give visas to all the others and not to him means Fiji is not only playing New Zealand, but we are also playing the New Zealand government," Mr Khan said.

"He is a key goalkeeper, and it is a very vital position."

'Sovereignty'

A spokesman for New Zealand's foreign ministry said Tamanisau "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," the spokesman said.

Fiji and New Zealand are playing in the second stage of Oceania's World Cup qualifying group.

The winner of the group will go through to a play-off with a team from another region for a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.



SEE ALSO
Country profile: Fiji
05 Oct 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Fiji
05 Oct 07 |  Country profiles
Fiji to lift state of emergency
05 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Ex-Fiji PM in coup court action
04 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific
N Zealand planning Fiji sanctions
18 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji expels New Zealand diplomat
14 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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