Asian Debate: What Next In the Crazy World Of Iranian Football?
As another Team Melli coach bites the dust, John Duerden wonders what will happens next in the soap opera that is Iranian football...
22 Apr 2009 04:21:43
Now just six weeks before a vital 2010 World Cup qualifier in North Korea, Team Melli is managerless.
There are many, the majority even, who opposed the appointment of this member of the old guard. He was a man who had been around for years but in the past decade or so, had achieved little. But even the most vociferous opponents of the 55 year-old will be taking little pleasure in another saga that doesn’t reflect well on Iranian football.
Mayeli Kohan didn’t enjoy much support among the media or fans. He was never the popular choice to succeed Ali Daei who was fired on March 29 after losing a vital qualifier against Saudi Arabia. What he did have was the support of many in the Iranian Football Federation (IFF).
That enabled him to pip the more popular Afshin Ghotbi to the post. Despite that support, Mayeli Kohan has a number of enemies in Iranian football. One of those was Ali Daei and another was Daei’s predecessor with the national team - Amir Ghaleneoi, now coach of Tehran giants Esteghlal.
It was a row with the Esteghlal boss that ended Mayeli Kohan’s oh-so-short stint. The new Iran coach had wanted a two-year contract from the IFF. He didn’t get it and with just three games to see if he could save Team Melli’s dreams of South Africa, it was perhaps not surprising that Mayeli Kohan stayed on with club side Saipa.
In last Saturday’s league clash with Esteghlal, the Esteghlal fans let their feelings regarding Mayeli Kohan heard throughout the 90 minutes. The target of those chants was not happy and believed that the fans were chanting at the behest of Ghaleneoi.
Mayeli Kohan is not one to let such things go and he responded with a statement the following day.
“…During the match we were attacked with the worst insults. These insults were led by little people and their entourage…I am telling these people who call themselves the General [Ghalenoi] that they do not have any educational background and qualifications."
He then went on to use several derogatory remarks that directly and indirectly referred to Esteghlal's head coach.
The IFF then summoned him to explain his comments. This did not please their new coach. “For an entire game these people (fans of Esteghlal at the stadium) insulted me and my family,” he said. “Did the federation do anything? I issued my statement then…My resignation letter is in my pocket.”
Ali Kafashian, the head of the IFF, appeared on television and refused to guarantee that the new boss would be in place for the North Korea match on June 6. The fact that he was smiling as he did so and tried to pass it off as a joke, meant little.
The letter in the pocket was pulled out and handed over to end one of the shortest reigns in international football and one shocking even by Iranian standards.
Could it be a blessing in disguise? Only time will tell. The only good thing is that not much time has been lost. There is still almost six weeks before June and the games with the two Koreans and UAE.
What needs to happen is for Iranian football to pull together. The media, the IFF, the league and the fans need to unite at least until at least June 17.
But who will be the one to unite behind? Maybe the IFF will look at a resurgent Saudi Arabia and go down the foreign coach route, though Jose Peseiro was a man with prior experience of football in the Kingdom before he succeeded local coach Nasser Al Johar.
Goal.com has stated before that Afshin Ghotbi deserves consideration and he has come so close to taking the reins of Team Melli on two occasions. If the Iranian-American doesn’t get the nod this time with recent success in the Iranian league, current availablity and extensive knowledge of football in Korea, then he probably never will.
He would be the people’s choice but there are others in the running though and even the recall of Ghalenoi – now that would be ironic – or Ali Daei can’t be ruled out.
Perhaps the IFF have been lucky. They have been given one last throw of the dice and if they make the right decision now – the events of the past few weeks will be looked upon as a positive change in Iranian football as opposed to just another period of chaos and turmoil.