Mehdi Taj

Iranwire - Mehdi Taj has been president of the Iranian Football Federation since August 30, 2022. The hacktivist group Black Reward recently obtained access to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) affiliated Fars news agency files which show Taj was the IRGC’s definitive choice for the presidency.

There is an ongoing "military coup" in Iran to control Iranian sport – and football in particular. This raises questions about politics interfering in sport.

Taj, the former intelligence commander of the Isfahan IRGC intelligence agency, who oversaw monitoring of Kurdish activists in the cities of Kurdistan in the 1980s, is now in charge of Iranian football, the vice president of the Asian Football Confederation and a member of the International Football Federation's competition committee. Will FIFA continue to turn a blind eye to such violations?

How the financially corrupt man became the IRGC's pick

Taj’s financial file is littered with corruption. But the confidential IRGC bulletin, obtained by Black Reward, claims that "because he has personal wealth, he probably won't have an eye on the assets of the Football Federation."

There are two possible scenarios: Either the Revolutionary Guards expert analysis of Taj is wrong, or he has intentionally provided false information despite a long history of tampering with Iran's football budget.

One of the clearest cases of Taj’s corruption goes back to his contract with Marc Wilmots, the former coach of the national football team.

About a year before Taj was appointed to the Federation, Iranian news agencies reported that Wilmots had signed a contract worth 6,200,000 euros. Prior to this, the Transfer Market website, the most important reference for pricing players, coaches and football clubs, estimated the coach's annual salary to be between $600,000 and $800,000.

MP Ehsan Ghazi-Zadeh Hashemi claimed in February 2022 that 12 million euros, FIFA's reward for Iran's promotion to the World Cup in Qatar, would be spent on Wilmots’s contract.

Taj’s decision to upgrade a €200,000 coach's contract to one worth more than €12 million has been a source of confusion in Iran.

A further case of Taj's corruption was revealed in November 2017 by Yashar Soltani, a journalist who has published documents related to the corruption of football managers.

Soltani claimed that Taj sold 920 meters of his land in Tehran for 950 billion tomans [$27 million]. According to documents published by Soltani, this land was registered in the name of his family.

How did the Revolutionary Guards, which claims to have comprehensive intelligence regarding its managers, imagine that Taj was someone with a clean track record of financial activities?

The same confidential bulletin states that "the security agencies have never responded to the inquiry about Taj." Elsewhere in the documents, it clearly states that the IRGC chose Taj because he has guaranteed that he will implement the orders of the IRGC and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iranian football.

Some MPs were dubious when it came to answering questions about Taj, and now this decision can be traced back to the Fars news agency confidential bulletin. He was chosen by the IRGC to lead the Federation.

In response to a question on whether it was possible to withdraw and pay part of Wilmots' contract from his personal account, Taj said firmly that neither he nor the board members would pay this debt.

What kind of manager has the IRGC chosen?

Taj was the first head of the Iranian Football Federation in the history of Iran to give every Iranian football clubs’ broadcasting rights to Iran's state TV network.

In exchange for this expensive gift, Taj gained the support of state TV and, according to documents exclusively obtained by IranWire, he was even allowed to choose football commentators.

Instead of coach and former player Mehdi Mahdavikia, Taj introduced himself to the FIFA competition committee and falsely claimed that Mahdavikia was reluctant to participate in the committee. He also cooperated with the IRGC intelligence agency to detain girls who entered stadiums dressed as men at night.

The Fars news agency’s confidential bulletin states that Taj told the IRGC commanders and government officials that: "If I had been head of the Football Federation, the issue of women at stadiums would never have arisen."

In the presence of the authorities of the Islamic Republic, he claimed that because of the good relationship between him and the senior managers of the Asian Football Confederation, he could have prevented pressure on the government regarding women's presence at stadiums.

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