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By ESPN Staff

Singapore handed blow as FIFA block Qiu selection

Striker Qiu Li will not be allowed to play for defending champions Singapore at next month's AFF Suzuki Cup after FIFA ruled the China-born player had failed to meet the new five-year residential requirement.

The 27-year-old, who has been living in Singapore since January 2005, was granted Singapore citizenship in May this year and made his debut in an international friendly against Bahrain on May 28 before appearing in three of the country's four World Cup qualifiers in June.

However, the residential requirement was increased from two years to five during the FIFA Congress on May 30 and the world governing body have retroactively declared that Qiu is ineligible to represent Singapore.

According to the Football Association of Singapore, FIFA were of the view that Qiu had not played in a match in an official competition of any category for Singapore prior to the coming into force of the amended residential requirement.

"We are very disappointed with this outcome," said FAS general secretary Winston Lee.

"We had requested FIFA not to retroactively declare Qiu Li ineligible to represent Singapore. We felt that even though Qiu Li had not represented Singapore in a game in an official competition, he had represented Singapore in a competitive FIFA-sanctioned friendly against Bahrain before the new rules kicked in.

"Moreover, the Asian Football Confederation had earlier confirmed that Qiu Li was eligible to represent Singapore in the World Cup qualifiers to be held in June 2008.

"We will now have to study FIFA's reply carefully before deciding on our next course of action."

Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic was bemused by the FIFA decision.

"Qiu Li had made his debut for us in an official FIFA-sanctioned 'A' international against Bahrain on 28 May with that result counting towards official FIFA world ranking points," said the Serbian, who has led Singapore to back-to-back Asean titles.

"I think this has been very confusing. What I do not understand is how in May, AFC had sent us a letter to confirm his eligibility and now in November they send us another letter to deny his eligibility based on a technicality."

Qiu's place in the Suzuki Cup squad will be taken by Singapore Armed Forces winger Mustaqim Manzur, who has five senior caps to his name.

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