By Simon Jennings
ST PETERSBURG, June 15 (Reuters) – Iran coach Carlos Queiroz made a plea for football to be separated from politics, minutes after his team beat Morocco 1-0 in their first match of the World Cup on Friday.
Iran’s preparations have been disrupted by U.S. sanctions against the country, with American sportswear giant Nike refusing to supply equipment to the team and both Greece and Kosovo cancelling friendly matches against them last month.
“We come here without World Cup preparations because a couple of teams didn’t want to play against us,” Portuguese Queiroz told a news conference.
“We don’t have camps, we have problems.
“As I said before the game, to make these difficulties a source of inspiration, a source of motivation, is really something very special.”
A late own goal by substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz broke Moroccan hearts in St Petersburg and sent Iran into raptures as they celebrated their second win at a World Cup with unrestrained joy.
Queiroz said victory felt much sweeter in light of the problems facing Iranian football.
“We train and we play under (bad) conditions,” he added. “No pitches, no camps, no friendly games because of the sanctions. I think it’s my duty to say, ‘let our boys play football’. They are just football players.
“Let them enjoy football like all the other football players in the world. They are not against nobody or against nothing. They just want to express themselves and play football.”
The 65-year-old pleaded for fairness and unity, calling for the sport to be freed from the influence of global politics.
“We are in this World Cup under the umbrella of FIFA and the main value of FIFA it is to put politics apart, but this is not what is going on,” he said.
“It is totally unfair to 23 boys who just want to play football. They showed today they deserve to be treated like all the other players in the world.”
Iran face Spain in their next Group B match on June 20, before playing Portugal five days later.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings, editing by Ed Osmond)