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Leeds fight FIFA over Viduka's ban

Angry Leeds will fight to overturn FIFA's weekend ban on Viduka
Angry Leeds will fight to overturn FIFA's weekend ban on Viduka

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LEEDS, England -- Crisis club Leeds plan to challenge a FIFA ban on Mark Viduka playing against Manchester United on Saturday following an Australian protest.

"Leeds United Football Club is taking legal advice and will explore every available avenue in seeking to redress this potential injustice," Leeds said in a statement on their website.

Leeds said they were "outraged" by the Australian Soccer Association (ASA) who called for a FIFA ban after the striker pulled out of Wednesday's friendly against Venezuela in Caracas.

"This decision has shown a complete lack of understanding and compassion towards Mark whose father Joe is still critically ill over in Australia," Leeds added.

Leeds, sinking under 100 million pounds ($189m) of debts, pointed out they had no hesitation in allowing Viduka to return to Melbourne for three weeks to be at his sick father's bedside.

And they said that when he returned to England he complained of pain in his lower back and tightness in his hamstrings.

"Leeds United Football Club and Mark Viduka have following his selection for this game been open and honest with ASA and given his loyalty to both club and country it is difficult to understand why such a hard stance has been taken which does not appear consistent with that for those other players who, for whatever reasons, did not travel to Caracas," Leeds said.

"Leeds United Football Club, fighting a battle for survival both on and off the pitch, have just 13 games to secure their place in the Premiership."

The ASA said earlier Thursday it would invoke FIFA regulations to ban Viduka and Scott Chipperfield, who plays for Swiss side Basel, from playing in their next European club matches over their failure to play for Australia.

Viduka and Chipperfield, along with Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, John Aloisi and Josip Skoko missed Australia's 1-1 draw with the South Americans in Caracas on Thursday.

The ASA said it was satified that Kewell, Skoko, Aloisi and Emerton were unable to travel because of injuries which were substantiated by medical reports.

Viduka 'extremely disappointed'

But Viduka ruled out turning his back on Australian soccer.

"I want everyone connected with, or following the Socceroos to know that I care passionately about playing for my country and thoughts of retiring from the national team were never an option," he said in a statement.

"I am extremely disappointed by the stance taken by Soccer Australia."

ASA said in a statement on Thursday that it was not satisfied Viduka had sustained an injury which would have prevented him from playing in Caracas.

But Viduka said Leeds had requested last Saturday he be withdrawn over an injury picked up in the game against Wolves.

"They considered and submitted medical opinion that as the injury was sustained due to lack of match fitness, treatment and rehabilitation would be a better option rather than the amount of travel required for this fixture.

"However, at this time I also had an open and honest dialogue with the ASA expressing my thoughts that this game had come at the wrong time for me due to my recent personal circumstances: a time when I feel I need to be with and available to my family.

"Sadly, this also was not deemed acceptable.

"Therefore because of my strength of feeling I took the tough decision to withdraw from the squad.

"This was communicated to the ASA on Saturday evening before I was due to travel on the Sunday."

Chipperfield did not connect with a flight from Madrid to Caracas on Monday and instead of taking one of two alternative routes suggested to him he returned to Switzerland.

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