Fijians Hunting For Heads Over New Zealand Refusal To Grant Goalkeeper’s Visa

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – A livid Fijian football chief plans to take New Zealand’s refusal to allow his side’s goalkeeper into the country to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Fiji will play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday in a vital World Cup qualification match.

The New Zealand Government agreed to rush through visas for the team so they could play in the match. However, the team will play without first-choice goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau, whose visa application was declined on Tuesday.

“I am sure they [the court] will nullify the game because this situation is grossly unfair,” said Fiji Football Association president Dr Sahu Khan.

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

The goalkeeper’s visa application was turned down because under sanctions imposed by New Zealand after last December’s coup in Fiji people with ties to the military cannot come to this country. Tamanisau’s father-in-law is a military policeman.

Dr Khan said Fiji was aware of New Zealand’s stance, and had not attempted to bring over a team physiotherapist who was in the Army.

“I believe it is grossly unfair, and that it is a disgrace to the New Zealand Government. If his father-in-law is a military man, why should he pay the price?”

Fiji would go ahead with the game, but was playing under protest, Dr Khan said. A letter of protest had been sent to football’s world governing body Fifa, and Dr Khan hoped it would take Fiji’s side in the dispute.

“No more Oceanian or Fifa games should be played in New Zealand until they give up on these sanctions.”

Oceania Football Confederation general secretary Tai Nicholas said he had been surprised the goalkeeper’s visa had been declined, especially as he was coming to compete in a World Cup game.

“We think that the decision for him to be refused a visa on the grounds that the father-in-law is in the Army is perhaps going a bit too far, because then how far do you go before you stop determining what is a relative in the Army?”

Mr Nicholas did not know if Fifa could take any action against New Zealand Football over Fiji being denied the right to field their strongest team.

“We would prefer that the New Zealand Government would allow him to come and not allow this unfortunate situation where politics has become involved with the game of football.”

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand was yet to receive any appeal from Fifa over the issue. The spokesman said the sanctions would apply to any Fijian sports team coming to New Zealand for an internationally sanctioned event.

“New Zealand has the right to deny entry to any member of a sports team as it sees fit.”

Graham Seatter, chief executive of New Zealand Football, said he was pleased the game could go ahead at all.

“We’re obviously delighted the game has been confirmed. There was always a belief that it would happen but there was also a lot of doubt, so it’s nice that doubt has now gone.”

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