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FIFA: Iran Playing Crucial Role in World Football

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Fars - Iran contributes a significant role to the world football and FIFA is paying due attention to this issue, a spokesman of the Federation of International Football Associations said.

The exclusive interview of the FIFA spokesman - who asked to remain anonymous - with FNA followed a series of problems at Iran's Football Federation, including the nomination of the Vice-President and Head of Iran's Physical Education Organization (PEO), Mohammad Ali-Abadi, for the post of IFF president in upcoming elections, which received a strong opposition by the world soccer's ruling body.

The spokesman ruled out earlier statements by the FIFA-appointed head of IFF Transitory Board, Mohsen Safayee Farahani, who had announced that the PEO head and his deputy and chairman of Iran's National Olympic Committee Ali Kaffashian - a second nominee for the IFF post - could nominate for any other posts in the federation elections, except for IFF presidency.

"The way for the Iranian Football Federation to solve the problem is to fulfill the FIFA requirements, as established during the meeting held on 4 December in the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and under the chairmanship of AFC President and FIFA Executive Committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam," the FIFA spokesman said.

"In particular, the approval of the new IFF Statutes according to the FIFA Statutes and regulations and the fact that the president and the vice-president of the Physical Education Organization of Iran are not allowed to be candidates for any position within the federation, as per Article 17 of the FIFA Statutes regarding the independence of the electoral process of our member associations, are crucial," he added.

FIFA had informed the IFF two weeks ago that if the candidacy of the PEO President for the IFF presidential election was confirmed, world's football governing body would not recognize the election. Football's world governing body reiterated that they would not accept PEO head as new IFF president as this would be governmental interference in Iranian football and hence against international regulations.

The IFF confirmed that the IFF presidential election, originally scheduled for 6 December 2007, has been postponed due to FIFA's opposition. Therefore, the IFF has opted for a postponement of the planned presidential election.

Ali-Abadi was one of the three candidates registered for elections scheduled for December, which however were postponed as FIFA said they would not recognize the election results if Ali-Abadi did not withdraw.

FIFA and AFC officials are slated to attend a meeting in Tokyo this week to review the latest conditions of the Iranian Football Federation and decide its fate.

FIFA President Sepp Blater told FNA earlier that he, heading a delegation of FIFA Executive Committee members, would leave Switzerland for Japan this week to discuss the issue in a meeting with the Asian Football Confederation.

Blater also pointed out that the meeting would be held in absence of Iranian officials.

Last Tuesday, representatives from FIFA, the AFC, Iran's PEO and IFF Transitory Committee - comprising three PEO and three FIFA-appointed members and chaired by FIFA-appointed Safayee-Farahani - attended a meeting in Kuala Lumpur to review the latest conditions of IFF.

During the meeting, chaired by AFC President Mohamed bin Hammam and FIFA Executive Committee member, FIFA and the AFC re-emphasized their strong position on the necessity of separating the football association from any governmental interference.

Furthermore, the PEO and IFF Transitory Committee were due to communicate to FIFA and the AFC within 48 hours on the topics that were discussed at the meeting, mainly regarding objections to the President of the PEO and his deputy taking part in the Congress as candidates and on the issue of the chairmanship of the Congress.

Iran however says that as IFF is internationally classified as a non-governmental organization, Ali-Abadi could be both IFF President and PEO chief.

"There are certain rules on who can and who cannot run for federation presidency, the country's sports chief and main policy maker of sports affairs is one of those who can definitely not," Mohsen Safayee-Farahani told FNA last week.

"The objections by FIFA should therefore be removed so that no ban is imposed on Iran," the IFF interim chairman said.

For his part, PEO head Ali-Abadi indirectly reprimanded Safayee-Farahani by saying that "certain local football circles of giving false information to FIFA" and hence blocking progress of the country's football.

"Iran would stand decisively against all problems and will eventually solve them," the vice-president said, indicating that he would not accept FIFA interference in Iranian football.

The problems of the IFF started when FIFA first threatened to suspend the country's football activities unless IFF ends its governmental nature by ratifying a new Statute approved by the world governing body.

After the former IFF president Mohammad Dadkan resigned following embarrassing results in the 2006 World Cup, an IFF Transitory Committee was set up to compile a proper Statute, hold elections and run current affairs of the federation.

The main problem of the country is however that until election of a president, the Iranian national football team would remain - as the only side in Asia - without a coach.

Sports insiders say that most of the foreign candidates - such as French Jacques Santini - have already rejected the Iranian offers or are no longer willing to wait.

Insiders therefore believe that the most suitable option would be Afshin Qotbi who is currently coaching the league's leading team Persepolis.

Qotbi is an experienced coach, who was South Korean assistant coach during two World Cup campaigns and has turned Persepolis after several crisis years into a top team again.

He is therefore believed by many football experts as a far better option than what they call "second-grade" foreign coaches.

"It would be a great honor for every trainer to serve his national team and I have proven that I could be a good coach for the national team and lead it to the World Cup 2010," Qotbi himself said.

Iran has so far attended three World Cup finals - 1978, 1998 and 2006 - and had six defeats, two draws and one win against political arch-foe the US in the 1998 games in France.

The interview with the FIFA spokesman, which contains even more interesting information about Iran-FIFA relations, will be continued in the following days.

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