Fuming Fiji to play World Cup qualifier under protest

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BRISBANE, Australia, Oct 11 (Reuters) Fiji's soccer federation plans to take the New Zealand government to court for refusing to grant its national team goalkeeper a visa to play in a World Cup qualifier, saying it will ask for the match result to be nullified.

The New Zealand government had rushed through visas for the team so they could play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday in a World Cup qualifying match.

However, it denied an entry visa to first choice goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau because his father-in-law is a military policeman.

Under sanctions imposed by New Zealand after last December's coup in Fiji, people with ties to the military cannot enter the country.

Fiji's soccer chief Sahu Khan said he planned to take the situation to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

He told the New Zealand Herald he was sure the court would nullify the game because it was ''grossly unfair''.

''He is a key goalkeeper and it is a very vital position,'' Khan said.

''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.'' Khan said Fiji will play the game under protest.

He also said a letter had been sent to soccer world governing body FIFA protesting the situation.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said any Fijian sporting team coming to New Zealand for a sporting event would still be subjected to the sanctions.

''New Zealand has the right to deny entry to any member of a sports team as it sees fit,'' the spokesman said.

The two countries, in addition to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, have reached the second stage of Oceania's World Cup qualifying, to earn half a place at the 2010 finals, according to FIFA.

The top Oceania team must beat Asia's fifth-placed country to reach the 32-team finals in South Africa.

REUTERS BJR BD1001

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