Kayhan London: On his last visit to Tehran to attend the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Championship League final between Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers, Gianni Infantino, the president of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), spoke to Adel Ferdosipour, a prominent sports commentator and the host of the TV show Navad (“Ninety”).
State television did not broadcast the interview in its entirety on the scheduled date, but a four-minute segment of the program was aired a week later in which Mr. Infantino warned that FIFA might punish the Iranian Football Federation if the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) insists on interfering in football.
When asked about a recently ratified retirement bill that could prevent Mehdi Taj to remain as the head of Iran’s Football Federation, Infantino said: “The issue is obvious to us. We’ve discussed this with Mr. Taj. Iranian football owes its success in Asia and on the world stage to a large extent to Mr. Taj’s invaluable efforts and hard work. Iranian football teams are currently among the best in Asia.”
“Taj and his colleagues have achieved great things in recent years. It is outrageous for the Parliament to pass a law that would enable it to interfere in Iranian football. That’s unacceptable,” Infantino noted: “FIFA insists that all football federations around the world should be apolitical and independent from any government. If necessary, we’ll warn the Majlis to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the Iranian Football Federation.”
Ferdosipour explained to Infantino that the Majlis maintains that although the Iranian Football Federation is a non-governmental organization it must abide by the law, which means Taj, who has reached the retirement age, must vacate his post.
“Passing a law for the sole purpose of forcing the head of the Iranian Football Federation to resign constitutes a blatant case of meddling. That is what we mean by the Parliament meddling in the affairs of the federation. The move by the Majlis could prompt FIFA to punish the Iranian Football Federation, which means the men’s, women’s and the youth’s football teams will be unable to compete in international tournaments. The measure would be a serious setback to Iranian football – something we don’t want to happen.”
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi