FIFA postpones NZ vs Fiji World Cup match

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WELLINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) Soccer's ruling body FIFA has postponed a World Cup qualifier between New Zealand and Fiji, fearing a visa wrangle might set a dangerous precedent.

The move followed a New Zealand government decision to bar Fiji's goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau from entering the country because his father-in-law is a military policemen, said Oceania Football general secretary Tai Nicholas.

New Zealand prohibits anyone with links to Fiji's military from entering New Zealand and has banned sporting contact at national level as part of sanctions put in place after a military coup in the Pacific Island nation last December.

''Football is a truly global game and to have a match involving political interference would set a bad precedent,'' Nicholas said in a statement.

An exception had made to the ban on sporting contact to allow New Zealand Football to fulfil its world cup obligations, but Tamanisau had been deemed ineligible because of the military ties rule.

New Zealand Football chief executive Graham Seatter told Reuters that FIFA had indicated it did not want to see one player from a squad being denied entry to a country for an international match.

''Their view is that this is a relatively trivial matter for a visa not to be granted,'' Seatter said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said FIFA's decision was disappointing. ''Entry to another country is a privilege, and all countries retain the right to exclude individuals in accordance with their immigration policy,'' Peters said in a statement.

The match was to have been played in Auckland tomorrow Seatter said talks were underway with Fijian officials to see if the return leg, scheduled for October 17 in Fiji, would be played. If not the two matches would have to take place next year.

If the visa issue arose again, New Zealand would have to play its match at a neutral venue.

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

REUTERS BJR VC1015

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