Iranian Football Managers Squabble In Run-Up to 2018 World Cup

By Minou Yeganeh

Alireza Asadi was named the general secretary of the Iran Football Federation (IFF) in January 2015 – at a time when Carlos Manuel Brito Leal Queiroz, the Iranian national team’s Portuguese football manager, was at the height of his popularity in the country. Some observers suspect that Asadi’s superiors demanded that he rein in Queiroz and challenge his authority.

Alireza Asadi. Photograph: Hamed Malekpour

Asadi has reportedly been dismissive of Queiroz’s concerns over poor-quality practice pitches, inadequate equipment, and disorganized football camps. Queiroz has argued that Asadi’s reluctance to address these issues has decreased the national football team’s chances of advancing through the qualifying games for the June 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. By contrast, Ali Kafashian and Mehdi Taj, the former heads of the IFF, had reportedly gone out of their way to accommodate Queiroz.

In an Iranian media interview, Queiroz said Iran would advance to the World Cup with Asadi as the head of IFF. He said Asadi didn’t want Iran to make it through the qualifying games and go to Moscow. Queiroz even threatened to resign if Asadi were to remain at his post.

Queiroz’s remarks prompted Asadi to defend himself in the media. He told reporters: “The federation has limited resources. It can’t accommodate Queiroz’s every demand.”

The issue has now been raised with President Hassan Rouhani and the Sports Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament). They have concluded that Queiroz should be facilitated in his work as much as possible to ensure that the national football team will succeed in the qualifying games.

Iran became the second team (after Brazil) to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It also tops Group A of the Asian qualifying teams. The Iranian men’s national football team is currently ranked 23rd in the world by FIFA, placing it above many top-class teams. The success of the Iranian team has brought high praise for Queiroz from President Rouhani, Majlis deputies and other senior officials in Iran.

The Queiroz craze has prompted IFF officials to start looking for a replacement for Asadi. However, Queiroz has made inflammatory comments about Asadi to the media. He accused Asadi of demeaning the Iranian national football teams’ achievements. Being ranked as the top Asian team and 23rd in the world, he said, marked one of the best periods in the history of the team.

“Some people try very hard to undermine the team’s extraordinary record,” he added.
Queiroz described Asadi as a “wizard” whose aim was to dash the hopes and dreams of the national football team.

“This wizard is an ineffective official who hasn’t lifted a finger to promote Iranian football. His aim is to character assassinate the football manager and question his commitment,” Queiroz added.

Many senior sports officials have expressed concerns about the current tension between the IFF head and the national football team manager. The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Volleyball Federation (I.R.I.V.F), Mohammad Reza Davarzani, has urged IFF to resolve the dispute between Queiroz and Asadi. He has pointed out that both men must fulfill their responsibilities to the IFF.

“We’ll do our part to safeguard IFF and the game of football,” Davarzani said. “These officials have enormous responsibilities. It is not appropriate for them to fight a very public war in the media.”