BAGHDAD: Iraq’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it had summoned Algeria’s ambassador after the North African nation’s football supporters sang slogans glorifying former dictator Saddam Hussein during a game in Algiers.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjub voiced “the indignation of the government and the Iraqi people (at) the horrible glorification of the regime of murderous dictator Saddam Hussein.”
Saddam was deposed in 2003 by a US-led military intervention.
Spectators shouted the chants at an Arab Club Champions Cup game on Sunday between USM Alger and Iraq’s Air Force Athletic Club.
Videos filmed inside the stadium and posted online show Algerian supporters chanting “Allahu akbar (God is greatest)! Saddam Hussein!“
After 75 minutes of play, the Iraqi team left the pitch in protest.
Iraq’s football federation threatened to pull its teams out of the remainder of the competition and said it “opposed all extremist and sectarian slogans.”
“If the Arab Football Federation does not take a decision to restore… respect for Iraqi football, the Iraqi federation will withdraw its clubs,” Iraqi football federation president Abdel Khaleq Massud said in a statement.
Air Force Athletic Club coach Bassem Qassem accused the spectators of having “backward and extremist ideas.”
“We can’t accept the crowd insulting our country and our team,” he said in a video broadcast by Iraqi football officials.
“Why would we play in front of a sectarian crowd?“