Category: Archive

A critical look at Team Melli.

Team Melli got the result it wanted against the UAE and put further pressure on Korea Rep for the race at the top of the group. With qualification assured, it was an excellent opportunity for Dragan Skocic to introduce changes in the lineup, but to the great disappointment of many, he stuck with the same players except for those enforced changes such as through suspensions or Covid.

If the mission of Skocic was just to finish the match with three points and minimum damage, then he achieved that objective, but it was far from pretty. A countless number of passes went astray, the finishing in front of the goal was abysmal, final balls lacking accuracy, misunderstanding between players and lack the sense of urgency and accuracy. Players were guilty of some unprofessional works at this level. Team Melli must look beyond the final two games of the group, although the one against Korea is a good test, and start looking forward to how would they like to play and compete.

To be recognized and accepted, Team Melli has a long way to go in a relatively limited time period.

Player’s selections and Opportunities

Skocic pick for the match was frustrating. If Team Melli has any aspiration to stand and be counted amongst the elite in Qatar, then Skocic must think positively and bravely to build a team of 23 highly-rated players and not just stick with a skeleton of 11 to 13 fixed starters. That was Queiroz regime style and despite the limited success of Queiroz’s team, it failed to go beyond the group stages in Russia and did not win the title in the Asian Cup 2019.

To give players confidence, Skocic must offer them the chance to play and perform. The bench players must be as good as the main players. Bench players must be integrated and there is no better way of such integration except actually giving them the minutes at any opportunity.

Skočić missed that opportunity against the UAE. Perhaps fear of losing was the catalyst and that is understandable. It is not a crime for a coach to be result-oriented, however, there is a time when the future integration and strength of the team must take priority.

Shaky individual Performances

Non-performing players or those who are consistently playing sub-standard games must realize that they would lose their place in the lineup. For example, both Ghoddos and Gholizadeh were poor against Iraq, yet they both kept their places against UAE. To create the spirit of competition amongst the players, Skocic could have dropped them for this match to send a signal to everyone else that there is no such thing as a permanent place in the team, sub-standard performances have consequences, there are alternative options who can fill the gap and the team is more important than the interest of the individuals.

That methodology has proven to work, as the problem with Taremi proved not long ago.

Most professional coaches religiously adhere to this mindset, Skocic must follow too. If a player is selected to play, he must deliver.

If a player continues playing weakly and yet he is still picked up for matches, there will be a sense of injustice and disappointment in the team the consequences of which is unimaginable.

Players must feel that bad performances will have consequences and hence give it 100% effort. Players in Team Melli must understand that there are at least two if not more players that can take their place if they do not deliver. This is missing in Skocic team.

Professional players of this generation will develop a false sense of security and believe in their own vitalness. Only a good professional coach can change that.

Disciplinary acts.

Then there was another disturbing part. The disciplinary record of Team Melli is absolutely dismal. There are far too many yellow and red cards awarded to them. It is an indication of lack of guile, professionalism, and most probably negligence.  There are certain Team Melli players that one feels could be dismissed anytime due to a wild or mistimed tackle, pure negligence, and lack of maturity. leading to suspensions and negative effects on the team. Whatever it takes, Skocic and his coaching staff must strengthen the mental agility and emotional control of the players. The World Cup is too valuable of a place for the Team to lose players through suspensions because of loss of concentration.

Game Plan

While there were some nice touches and inter-passing, despite the lack of continuity, the game plan against the UAE was not clear specifically at the forward end. There were few crosses on the flanks while Iran has the best players who could cross. There was also a lack of aerial firepower up front where the like of Taremi can excel, the direction and control of the midfield were lost mainly due to the failure of the Team Melli midfielders in keeping the ball and timely distribution. Game plans normally do not cater for players’ dismissal and that could have been a reason for the bewilderment of the team, however, even with one player short, Team Melli still managed to miss at least two certain goals!

Creativity and flexibility.

Team Melli is struggling to break down compact defense teams. Even if that is successfully done, the rate of conversion against the chances created is poor. There has been an embarrassing number of easy scoring chances missed

The problems stem from the heart of midfield. The sight of Team Melli probing from side to side, with a painful lack of incision, has left some critics lacking in confidence in the team. Flanks that feed the tall attackers seem to go missing in action. Apart from Jahanbakhsh, no other midfield player seems to have the vision and the creativity that is required at the top-level competition. The generations of Khodadad Aziz, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Karimi, Nekounam which then continued with Mojtaba Jabbari, Ando Teymourian, and Ashkan Dejagah have served the Team well through the years, now such creativity is simply lacking.

The root cause is the standard of the domestic league in Iran which is feeble and has failed to produce the quality required at the international level. The solution at Skocic’s hand. Somehow he must address this complicated issue.

What is government interference in football ?

With the on-going interferences by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the working of FFIRI , the fate of football in Iran is being put in jeopardy and sanction. FIFA has a strict principle on the independence of football round the globe. In this 2011 FIFA article , much light has been shed on the term and the explanations provided by FIFA officials on the subject matter

Regenass: We have strong principles

published by ( on Wednesday 19 October 2011
Regenass: We have strong principles

© Getty Images

On Wednesday, FIFA’s Association Committee will gather for their regular meeting in Zurich. The Committee deals with relations between FIFA and its members with a view of achieving optimum co-operation. If governments try to interfere in the running of associations, FIFA will intervene. spoke with FIFA’s Director of Member Associations and Development, Thierry Regenass, about governmental interference in football and the measures which football’s governing body can take. What exactly is political interference?
Thierry Regenass:
FIFA has the mandate to control association football worldwide, in all its aspects. This mandate is delegated to the national association, to control association football at the national level. This is about managing, controlling and developing football as a game and also the organisation of the game in general. The associations have the obligation to do it on their own, in an autonomous way without outside interference, from the government or any other parties. In general, political interference is when a government tries to take direct control.

What is the most common political interference?
The most common case of political interference is when a government perceives that the Executive Committee of the national association is not performing well enough and decides to take action. Often, because the national team is losing too many games, they decide that changes must be made and want to put someone else in charge. Other than that, it can be a lot of different things. For example, a government organising its own competition, outside of the association, or a government which decides to change the result of a league, because they favour one team more than the other.

However, we are not against governments, nor do we encourage our member associations to work in opposition of their governments. On the contrary – we constantly try to establish a good atmosphere and co-operation with governments. A government has a very important role to play in contributing to the development of football in a country. If there is a good relationship between the government and the national football association, then there will be very productive results.

How many cases of interference, more or less, does FIFA have to deal with in a year?
It’s difficult to give a figure. It all depends on what you call a ‘case’. We are in constant communication with our members and at times, there might be confusion, or even tension with other parties, but it can’t even be considered a case because the issue gets quickly resolved, through a simple clarification letter, or sometimes the evocation of a suspension.

When there are problems, we try to encourage the association to explain the background, we then explain why there would be a problem for FIFA, and then encourage the association to restore good working relations bilaterally.

Sometimes we meet with government representatives to try to prevent them from interfering. We only get involved when there has been a direct intervention. In that case, the matter would be referred to the FIFA Executive Committee or the Emergency Committee, with the ultimate sanction being the suspension of the association. If the association is still suspended by the time of the Congress, it needs to be confirmed by the FIFA Congress.

So talking about figures, it can be between four to ten ‘cases’ per year. Currently no associations are suspended.

FIFA is a strong organisation, not only in its football realm, but also in the political, socio-economical world, and we can and should use this strength to help our members.

Thierry Regenass, FIFA Director of Member Associations and Development

How does FIFA detect political interference?
In general, the association informs us. But in some places, they don’t want to inform us because they fear suspension or they are afraid of their Government. As football’s governing body we are constantly in the process of monitoring the situation of football in the world, including political topics. So we might hear from other football stakeholders, be it from the political world, the football world, or the local media even. The next step would be to ask the association to report about the issue and FIFA would then send delegates to examine the situation.

What are the measures that FIFA can take to stop political interference?
Although we have strong principles as well as procedures to follow, we have to act on a case-by-case basis. In terms of concrete measures, we do not have many alternatives other than the threat of suspension, and the suspension itself. But when you suspend an association, hence withdrawing financial resources, you penalise the football association, without impacting or engaging the government that much. So our first step is to try and encourage the association to get in contact with the government or the party involved in the case, and discuss the issue. Through official communications we will then progressively inform of the mounting risk of a suspension of the national association.

But outside of the context of a case, through monitoring, communication and reactivity, FIFA can try to prevent the emergence of a crisis. FIFA is a strong organisation, not only in its football realm, but also in the political, socio-economical world, and we can and should use this strength to help our members.

With which organisations is FIFA working closely together to achieve the goal of keeping politics out of sport/football?
First of all, we work with the continental confederations. In some countries, there are more general problems, i.e. governments enacting laws that will apply to, and impact on all sports, for example taking away the management responsibilities from the federation, and handing it over to the government. In that example, we are in contact with the IOC and the IOC is usually co-ordinating, as it represents all the sports.

How does FIFA monitor or ensure that an association in a non-democratic regime is not affected by political interference?
The congress has decided that all associations should conform to the FIFA Statutes. It’s an ongoing process where associations are reforming their statutes, including associations of non-democratic countries. Of course not all of them have gone through this yet. In some places it’s faster than others. Now more than half of the associations have gone through this change, but it’s a step-by-step process. The FIFA Standard Statutes should ensure among many things, that there is a democratic way of electing the office term bearer of the association.

Are there examples where the situation in a country has significantly improved through FIFA’s intervention?
Yes, there are a few. In Ethiopia, for example, there had been a problem for a long time and they were suspended for a while. In the end, we managed to find a way out of the crisis together with the government and the association. After that, the co-operation has been very good with the government. We are doing a lot to help them develop football.

The other case has been Brunei Darussalam. The association had been de-registered by the government, which wanted another organisation to control football. This led to a long suspension between September 2009 and May 2011. But now, the association is re-registered and stable and we are now able to focus together on football development – which is actually FIFA’s No1 objective according to its statutes.

Legendary Iran Goalkeeper Who Nearly Joined Man United Gets Cameo in Homeland

By:  Alex Dimond
(UK Lead Writer) on October 28, 2013

Football fans were in for a surprise while watching Homeland Sunday night, when acting CIA director Saul Berenson revealed himself to be an extremely knowledgeable student of the beautiful game.

(Warning: some mild spoilers ahead)

In a scene from the fourth episode of the show’s third season—shown last week in the United States, and on Sunday in the United Kingdom—Berenson (played by actor Mandy Patinkin) ends up revealing a presumably long-standing affection for a game that it is widely assumed not many Americans have.

Perhaps being in the American intelligence service really does mean having to keep tabs on everything.
Berenson arrives for a meeting with his researcher, Farah Shirazi (played by Tehran-born British actress Nazanin Boniadi), who reveals that her research has led her to a fictional Venezuelan club that is involved in a money-laundering operation whose majority owner appears to be one “Nasser Hejazi.”

The scene then plays out as an ode to one man’s knowledge of obscure footballing trivia.

Saul Berenson: Say again?

Fara Sherazi: Nasser Hejazi. Do you know him?

Saul Berenson: I know he played goalkeeper, for Iran’s 1978 World Cup team. He’s a legend.

Nasser Hejazi


The two then continue to debate the likelihood that Hejazi owns the Venezuelan club. It transpires that Hejazi was the favourite player of one Majid Javadi, a Middle Eastern operative on the CIA’s radar.

This is not the first time footballers have found their way into hit American TV shows—many remember the passing mentions of a “Pavlyuchenko” and “Arshavin” in an episode of Law & Order—but it is one of the more prominent.

Hejazi is certainly worth Berenson’s “legendary” description: The Tehran-born goalkeeper has proven to be one of the more enduringly popular sportsmen in his country’s history.

Having played for Iran for 12 years—including, yes, at the 1978 World Cup—he became an iconic figure. His performances in Argentina at that World Cup (most notably during a 1-1 draw with Scotland, Iran’s only point as they exited at the group stages) even attracted the interest of a certain English club that wanted to sign him for a period that summer.

“I went to England and was selected by Manchester United,” Hejazi later recalled, as John Duerden recounted for ESPN FC. “I was there for three months and played five (reserve) matches.”

United’s manager at the time, Dave Sexton, was impressed by what he saw and wanted to sign the goalkeeper, but political machinations at home prevented that from happening.

As Duerden recounts:

It wasn’t that simple. The Iranian Revolution started in 1978 and, in January 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Shah.

The upheaval first meant that there was nobody at the Iranian Football Federation to deal with the paperwork and, by the time there was, the new government announced that players over 27 could not go overseas.

Hejazi was 30 but by then United had plumped for South Africa’s Gary Bailey, who paid his fare to Manchester for the chance of a trial.

The new government guideline effectively ended Hejazi’s top-level career, but he went on to be a popular and a successful manager with a number of clubs around the country.

Despite the professional regret of never managing to grace the stage at Old Trafford, Hejazi continued to be exceedingly popular in his country—evening trying to run for the presidency in 2005.

He was not permitted to run, however, and continued to be a manager and a coach.

In 2011, he died, due to the effects of lung cancer, with 25,000 people turning up for his funeral.

Still, the Eagle of Asia continues to be remembered and revered in his home country…and now also in American TV shows of declining quality.

Not that everyone has been happy about Hejazi’s name and history being invoked in a show about the threat of terrorism against the West, though.

Down Memory Lane: Iran in 1978 World Cup


July & August 1978


Holland 3, Iran 0

     (Group Four)

 HOLLAND began their bid for a place in  another World Cup final with an efficient if  not majestic performance against Iran in  Mendoza.

A hat-trick by Rob Rensenbrink, two of  them from the penalty spot, confirmed the  considerable gulf in class between themselves  and the Asian qualifiers.
Iran played neat, controlled football in  midfield and their defence was uncompromising in the tackle.   But they lacked pace and numbers up front  and all too quickly they found their attacks ‘stifled and the action back in their own half.
Without the agility and safe handling of  goalkeeper Hejazi they might have been  more comprehensively beaten.

Iran brought Roshan, still not fully  recovered from a knee ligament injury, into  their attack in the second half but he found  support rare and insufficient.  Holland, sluggish at the start, had two  narrow escapes in the first 16 minutes.
Sadeghi’s long range shot was deflected and  Jongbloed had to scamper across his line to  save at the foot of a post.
Then, with the Dutch appealing in vain for  offside Faraki raced clear on the right and this  time a slight deflection carried his cross-shot  behind for a corner.
Holland shrugged off those scrapes, began  to piece together their game and Iran found  themselves under siege.  But for all the pressure it was a break from  defence which set up the opening goal in the  40th minute. Reinier Van de Kerkhof ran  away on the right and Abdollahi brought him  down in the area.
Rensenbrink, untroubled by the whistles of   the crowd, calmly placed the ball inside the  left post.

Rensenbrink effectively clinched the match after 62 minutes when he climbed high at the far post to head the second.
He completed his hat-trick in the 79th minute with another penalty after a trip ended Rep’s meandering run.


        Scotland 1, Iran 1

              (Group Four)

A RESOURCEFUL and confidence Iran team rubbed salt into Scotland’s gaping World Cup wounds
After defeat by Peru , the Willie Johnston disgraced and stories of players living it up, the Scots desperately needed a morale-boosting victory. Instead they played miserably unable to bring rhythm or purpose to their game. Their midfield was always industrious, but rarely effective, while the attack was pitifully unproductive.

Iran started cautiously, clearly hoping to contain. They feared Scotland’s pace and strength and were quick to pull back reinforcements to the defense.

But despite giving away an own goal Iran came back powerfully, their self beleif swelled and they might even have a win. The crucial move by manager Heshmat Mohajerani was to bring Danaiefar into his midfield to counter the non-stop menace by Gemmill.

The tenacious little Iranian did precisely that and much more besides. He found time to create, push forward and then score the equaliser.
He had marvelous support from Mohammad Sadeghi who covered and chased as well as displaying the ball control and flair.

Yet it seemed Iran were destined for another disappointment when they went down to a crazy goal just before half-time.
Hartford played an innocuous-looking ball down the middle and Jordan chased more in hope than belief.  But Hejazi, aware of Jordan’s challenge and Eskandarian confused each other and the latter turned the ball into his own net.

On the hour, however, Iran equalized. Danaiefard went wide on the left and then when it seemed the angle would defy him, he whipped his shot between Rough and the post. Suddenly Iran sensed victory was there for the taking and two minutes later they should have gone ahead. Ghasemmpour raced away on his own but lost control and  Rough smothered.

Jordan had a header superbly saved by Hejazi at the foot of the post as Scotland produced a last rally. But a goal then would have been more than they deserved        and an injustice to Iran.

Peru 4 Iran 1

     (Group Four)

PERU clinched top place in Group Four with another spectacular but controversial victory against Iran.

The pace and penetration which destroyed Scotland in their opening match also proved too much for the Asia Oceania representatives.
But Iranian hopes virtually disappeared when they had their third and fourth penalties of the championship awarded against them.
Cubillas, that master executioner, duly converted both to add to Velasquez’s opening goal and Peru had a handsome 3-0 lead after 39 minutes.

Iran manager Heshmat Mohajerani demanded: “We have had four penalties given against us, is this justice? We didn’t come here claiming we would beat these teams but we have not been given a chance.”
“My players are sick because they didn’t think they deserved to lose so heavily. We lost the game but mainly we lost it to the referee. FIFA should have protected us.”
Certainly it appeared that the second penalty in the Holland match was awarded for a foul fractionally outside the area and that Polish referee Alojzy Jarguz was harsh with his first penalty decision of the Peru game.

The Iranians also have some justification in claiming they should have had a penalty themselves against Peru.
But despite their frustrations Iran pulled  back a goal just before half-time, Roshan’s low, first-time shot going in off the far post.

The alert little forward was unlucky not to have another after 58 minutes when Quiroga defied him with a superb double save.
Iran at that stage looked as if they had  finally found a cutting edge to their neat, controlled play and that they might provide us  with a tense finish.
Peru, however, produced another ounce of  effort and in the 78th minute Cubillas completed his hat-trick.

[su_label]POST MORTEM[/su_label]

THOUGH more had been expected of Iran than Tunisia, in fact the Iranians were the less appreciated of the two minnows.

The reason was plain: where as the Tunisians played an all-round game, the Iranians were concerned mainly to defend and stop their opponents at all costs- even if it should mean a pile of penalties.

Perhaps this approach was forced on manager Heshmat Mohajerani by the fact that Hasan Rowshan was not fully fit; perhaps it was forced by the withdrawal from the squad before the finals of Parviz Gheleechkhani- though his form in the NASL with San Jose Earthquakes had been nothing to write about.

Without doubt theri best game was the 1-1 draw with Scotland. Iran scored both goals too – the one , a stupid own goal conceded by Eskandarian in a mix-up with his goalkeeper on the edge of the penalty box.

Judges by Iran’s performance, all those British managers still face a mountain of work to bring the Middle East nations up to a reasonable standard.



August 1978

Derick Allsop’s notebook


The dust hadn’t settled on Iran’s first World Cup expedition when manager Heshmat Mohajerani started working on his plans for the next one.

Mohajerani had said he intended to return to club football after Argentina, but the influence of the Crown Prince may well keep him in charge of the national team.
And already Mohajerani has sketched a development programme which will take Iran through the Asian Games at the end of the year and the Moscow Olympics in 1980 to the World Cup in Spain.
Many of the older players, including the splendid captain Ali Parvin, will go. A new team will be built around the young men who gained precious experience this summer in Mendoza and Cordoba.

Mohajerani said: ‘We have learned a lot from Argentina, not all of it pleasant, but we have learned. And that is just what we said we would do.”
“Our players are amateurs and have never experienced anything like this before. They were alongside the best teams in the world, sampling the atmosphere of the big time for the first time. Now we must use the experience we have gained as we begin the four-year cycle all over again. We cannot afford to sit back for a rest. We must keep going forward, looking to improve all the time.”
To that end Mohajerani hopes to give his new team competition against top class sides before they line up in Bangkok.
“Matches against good foreign opposition are essential,’ he said, ‘There is no substitute. This is the way you keep the momentum going and keep the players in touch.”
More than half the Argentina side could be replaced as Mohajerani looks for the foundations of his side for Spain. One man who will be retained as a key figure is Hassan Roshan.
The little forward didn’t complete a match in this summer’s championship, again falling victim of knee and muscle injuries. But against Peru he gave glimpses of the skill, Instinct and finishing ability which make him a quality player.
“He has cruel luck with injuries,’ said Mohajerani. ‘But he is a very good player and over the next four years we hope he will play a big part in our plans.”
The unpleasant experiences he mentioned concerned some of the refereeing in Argentina. Iran conceded four penalties, two against Holland and two against Peru.
“We don’t want to go on complaining about referees but I do think some of those decisions were harsh and left us with heavy defeats we didn’t deserve.”

Certainly against Peru they were given little reward for their imaginative play. They had the better of the game for long spells but Roshan alone provided a genuine threat and they went down 4-1.
Finishing, indeed, was a major problem. They played with two men up and were reluctant to push men forward from midfield. That was their other chief failing — lack of confidence.
It didn’t help them to face Holland in their first match. They were clearly overawed and despite the penalties were perhaps fortunate to get away with a 3-0 defeat. Their outstanding performance was in holding Scotland to a 1-1 draw. Again they were ruled by caution in the early stages, but after giving away an own goal came back to equalise and almost snatch a remarkable victory. With more confidence and determination Iran should make an even bigger impact on the game over the next four years.