Karimi’s snub to Team Melli and his last minute withdrawal without any formal announcement or prior coordination has hit the newspapers headlines in Tehran this morning. The details of the last minute drama before Team Melli departure to Australia are becoming clearer.
Ali Karimi has switched his mobile off 3 hours before departure and was not to be seen at his usual places. Before that, he did not turn up for the final practice session. It was a definite move by the assistant coach to hide and become untraceable. Questions to players and squad members asked by the media about his whereabouts were unanswered. Some players knew more than they claimed but Queiroz has banned any press statements or interviews before departure.
Queiroz himself was visibly disturbed and in a bad mood on arrival at the airport. His usually bubbly character and excitement at such events has completely abandoned him. Even his famous waves and smiles to the media were not there anymore. After reaching the airport departure terminal, he remained in the coach and did not disembark. He was shortly rejoined by Javad Nekounam. It would not be much of a brainer to guess that the topic of concern must have been Ali Karimi disappearance.
The only hint from the squad member of a disagreement or a dispute between Queiroz and Karimi came from one of the foreign assistant coaches who established that there was an argument between the two but he did not think it was of such a magnitude for Karimi’s to leave the squad.
Ali Kaffashian, clueless as always, was the last one to know about Karimi’s disappearing act and after being overwhelmed by inquiries from the press, he admitted that he has no clue at all and only heard about Karimi’s failure to turn up from the media! At least he is honest. He asked the media to be patient until he finds out the facts.
Editorials in the morning sport press of Tehran newspapers have reflected on the decision to add Karimi to the coaching staff, some editors questioning its overall value. Abrar Varzeshi questioned the motives of Queiroz in picking Karimi as his assistant, while Iran varzeshi’s scolded Karimi himself for accepting such a role.
Technically speaking, Karimi’s nonexistence in Team Melli squad will have zero effect on the team’s game plan, strategy and line up. His contribution or influence, if any, was far too limited to be considered a setback for the team chances in the Asian Cup. What is worrying though, is the emotional effect on the team and the tense atmosphere he created by leaving the team. Karimi has a knack of spoiling parties and has a track record of ruining it for others. His sudden knee jerk reactions have left him with a reputation of recklessness and selfishness. His objections are normally dramatic and controversial resulting in unsettling other people around him. In a nutshell, Ali Karimi is not an example of diplomacy or restraint when it comes to dealing with conflicts. His rebellious charterer is not really suited for a successful football coach.
It is this psychological effect that might be worrying Queiroz in Australia. Perhaps he has already realized that his selection of Karimi was ill-advised and was a bad move, in spite of his good intentions such as creation of a good atmosphere in Team Melli with the legend figure of Karimi. This is another battle he needs to fight on top of so many others in Team Melli camp.
One can only feel sympathy for the Portuguese and wonder if these firefighting exercises might take its toll on him, after all a person can take that much pressure. These are the type of concerns that could lose him his concentration, leading to a focus change from on the field matters to off field topics and perhaps some disgruntling. He already has a mountain to climb technically speaking with a patched up team that is ill-prepared for such a major tournament. Now he has an added task of hyping the team and morally strengthens them to make a fight of it.