World Cup 2006 Features
Day of reckoning in Iran following World Cup flop
By Farshid Motahari Jun 24, 2006, 18:32 GMT
Iran player Andranik Teymouriani lays on the pitch after group D preliminary match of 2006 FIFA World Cup Iran vs Angola at the FIFA World Cup stadium in Leipzig, Germany, Wednesday, 21 June 2006. The match ended 1-1.
Tehran - Iran's national team, considered to be the best in the country's history, wanted to put on a show at the 2006 World Cup in Germany in order to reach horizons far beyond Asia.
But the undertaking eventually turned out to be a total flop and has now taken on political dimensions.
While the rather unrealistic and overenthusiastic expectations in Iran went as far as reaching the second round, despite strong opponents such as Mexico and Portugal in Group D, they ended the tournament with a single point from a 1-1 draw with Angola.
Both Mexico (1-3) and Portugal (0-2) showed Iran that they still have a long way to go before they reach the desired international level.
The flop also served as an occasion - or excuse - for requitals and settling old scores, sports observers said.
The firing of Football Federation (FFI) President Mohammad Dadkan right after the Angola game by the Iranian Sports Organization (STB) again raised the question whether the government should interfere in sports affairs in general and football in particular.
'According to FIFA rules, governmental organizations are not allowed to have any interference in football affairs - such an interference could lead to legal consequences against Iran by FIFA,' FFI spokesman Gholam-Hussein Zamanabadi told ISNA news agency.
For more than 25 years. the FFI has been - and still is - one of the sub-federations of the STB, which itself is part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, currently led by his deputy Mohammad Aliabadi.
Due to this structure, the FFI president is appointed de facto by the government and this is legally contradictory to FIFA rules.
FIFA has asked Iran several times to separate the FFI from the government but the STB says that according to the country's legal structure, the FFI has always been part of the government and would remain so in the future.
'The FFI should have clarified this legal angle before the World Cup and not use this issue as a pretext to start a political struggle,' a local sports journalist said, while adding that it was the FFI who had insisted to let the team meet President Ahmadinejad before the games.
Dadkan termed his dismissal as a 'conspiracy' and said that Japan also only gained one point at the World Cup but there have been no such harsh reactions in Tokyo.
'The main question is who should run the country's sports affairs: people like us (sports experts) or people like (vice-presidents) Aliabadi or (Ali-Reza) Saedlu?' Dadkan told ISNA.
'These people did not make me FFI president and have no right to dismiss me, either. In the near future it will be these people who will be dismissed,' Dadkan added, referring to the two officials who are close aides of President Ahmadinejad.
FFI spokesman Zamanabadi even blamed the STB and hence political officials for 'irresponsible interference' in the team's affairs which he said led to 'psychological problems' within the players.
'The main problem is indeed the discrepancy between FFI and STB and instead of referring to the main problems, the whole focus is on irrelevant minor matters,' said MP Jonathan Betkolia, who is deputy head of the sports committee in the parliament.
Aliabadi and several MPs were together with the team in Germany, but there are no impartial reports as to what extent they really interfered in the team's affairs.
Coach Branko Ivankovic seemed to have predicted the turmoil and the Croatian took the initiative, declaring that he will almost certainly step down after nearly five years in the job.
Football experts in Tehran say that Iran will have to start right from the beginning again, especially as the World Cup showed that even in Asia, the team were no longer the absolute front-runners.
Considering the strong performances of both Japan and South Korea in Germany and the participation of Australia in the Asian qualification group for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, these three countries are expected to be the favourites.
This would leave Iran a very tough competition with the oil-rich Persian Gulf Arab sheikhdoms for the remaining fourth team, experts say.
'It takes a very long time until the fans reconcile again with the national team after this humiliation,' a football reporter in Tehran said.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur