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An Olyroos training camp and game in Thailand has been scrapped as Football Federation Australia takes a stand against the nation’s ongoing detention of refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi.
FFA on Wednesday cancelled a trip to Bangkok which was scheduled as part of a proposed pre-AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers camp.
The decision was made in consultation with Socceroos and Australia under-23 team coach Graham Arnold after his return from the Asian Cup.
“We reassessed our plans due to the ongoing detainment of Australian footballer Hakeem al-Araibi in a Thai prison,” Arnold said in a statement.
“Australia’s national teams are united in their support for Hakeem al-Araibi and we call on the community to continue to campaign for his release.”
An FFA memo was sent to A-League clubs on Sunday, detailing plans to fly out for Bangkok on March 11 for the under-23 training camp.
Arnold’s side was to play friendlies against China’s under-22 team on March 14 and an unnamed opponent three days later before travelling to Cambodia for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying tournament.
Another Asian nation will now host the camp as FFA scrambles to make new arrangements.
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has been leading the fight to have al-Araibi freed and says Bahrain and Thailand should be threatened with immediate expulsion from world sport over the issue.
The FFA rethink comes as the football world, including international stars Didier Drogba, Jamie Vardy and Giorgio Chiellini, rally behind al-Araibi.
The 25-year-old, who was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing Bahrain in 2014, will spend another 60 days in detention after being refused a return to Melbourne on Monday after he fronted a Thai court in shackles.
The Pascoe Vale FC player was travelling to Thailand for a belated honeymoon when he was detained at Bangkok airport by authorities acting on an Interpol arrest warrant which has been declared invalid.
Al-Araibi was sentenced to 10 years’ jail in absentia over the firebombing of a police station in Bahrain in November 2012. He denies the charges and says he was playing in a televised match when the attack happened.
The former Bahrain national team player said he fled his home country due to political repression and fears he is at risk of being tortured if he returns.