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Iran name temporary replacement federation chief

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TEHRAN, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Iran have appointed a temporary soccer chief after the Islamic republic's poor run of form forced the previous federation president to resign this week, state media said on Saturday.

The head of Iran's Physical Education Organization appointed Mohammad Dadkan, a senior official within the sport's top body, as caretaker boss of the Iran Football Federation until a new head could be chosen.

The upheaval comes as Iran's squad prepares for the Asian Games in South Korea from September 29. Iran are set to play in group five along with Qatar, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Mohsen Safai Farahani, the former head of Iranian's soccer federation, stepped down from his post this week after being heavily criticised for his team's disappointing form since they failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

Dadkan expressed regret over Safai Farahani's resignation.

'He was an efficient manager...and I will keep on working his way and withstand lobbying in soccer to secure health in this sport,' Dadkan was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Safai Farahani decided to quit amidst growing speculation that Iran, who qualified for the 1998 World Cup, might withdraw from the Asian Games in South Korea.

'I resigned because the national team is under severe pressure and there are hands making an effort to destroy the team,' Farahani was quoted as saying in local newspapers on Saturday.

'CALM MIND'

'I sacrifice myself for the sake of the national squad so that it can go to the Pusan (Asian Games) matches with an easy and calm mind,' Farahani said.

The soccer chief has been slammed by Iranian coaches and the local sports media since Iran failed to qualify for this year's World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan.

Iran lost to 2-1 Ireland in a two-leg playoff.

Farahani also came under fire for his decision to appoint Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic to take charge of the national team in January.

Ivankovic took over after the resignation of the popular Miroslav Blazevic.

Iran's form has dipped ever since and several domestic coaches, as well as certain media commentators, have suggested the team should withdraw from the Asian Games to avoid further embarrassing defeats.

Iran used to attract huge crowds of more than 100,000 for home games but local support has dropped markedly as fans become more and more disillusioned with the state of the national game.

Iran's greatest achievement on the football field came at the 1998 World Cup in France where they beat arch political foe the United States 2-1.

That victory, viewed by the ruling clergy as an historic triumph, sparked one of very few occasions when young Iranians have been allowed to unleash their emotions and stage street celebrations in a country where dancing and public festivities are normally banned under strict Islamic laws.

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