Category: Sports & Games

Reports: Iraq & Syria may lose hosting rights.

According to the UAE Al-Ittihad newspaper, two Group A teams Iraq and Syria may well lose the chance of playing their home matches in their own country.

Ittihad quoted informed sources in the Asian Football Confederation headquarters, the AFC has asked Iraq and Syria to nominate alternative venues for their home matches in the third qualifying round of the FIFA  World Cup Qatar 2022 in a neutral country.  According to the newspaper, security issues and the coronavirus situation of the two countries are factors that influenced the denying of the hosting and requirement to nominate other countries for holding their home matches.

The final decision has to be resolved by the end of July (less than another month), as the third round qualifiers start on 2nd September. However, FIFA has stated that countries in each group cannot nominate their group rivals venues to host home matches. Al-Ittihad also stated that the president of the Syrian Football Federation has begun negotiations to select an Arab country to host on neutral ground. Reflecting on the news, Iraqi journalist Ali Nouri also protested against the decision by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation and called on the Minister of Sports, Adnan Darjal, and the Iraqi Federation’s normalization committee to pursue the issue of hosting Iraq on its own soil. Iran, South Korea, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the UAE are in the Group of the third round FIFA World Cup qualifiers. This report does not mention the name of Iran and the issue of its hosting.

An exciting draw for Iran.

If there was an easier draw in the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, then Iran has possibly the better group of the two.

Not only the opponents are well known for Team Melli but the logistics will be that much easier with 4 neighbors per se with the only long-distance travel being Korea. The most familiar team is Iraq which Iran recently defeated in the second round to qualify for the final round.

Korea will remain the most serious of the group contenders. The star-studded team of the Koreans have qualified for the World Cup 10 times and is well-positioned to make it number 11 along with Iran.

the four Arab countries in the group stand an equal chance of qualifying. Although Syria was the best performer of the four teams in the second round, it will be difficult for the Syrians to repeat this performance in the third round, especially since they lost their head coach the Tunisian Nabil Maaloul.

Iraq will always remain a strong team despite the difficult circumstances surrounding the team. In the draw ceremonies, the Slovenian coach of Iraq national Team Katanec was absent while doing the after-draw interviews. That does not augur well for the coach who is on shaky ground. It is not clear if he will be continuing with the team.

UAE was trailing Vietnam in the group until the last day. However, a great awakening in the last match, pushed UAE to a win against Vietnam to head the group and qualify directly to round three. UAE is a well know opposition to Iran but has never defeated Team Melli. UAE also remains a favorite away venue to Iran.

Lebanon was perhaps the luckiest team of the group but by no mean the punching bag. Their performance in the group with Korea was quite admirable. Although their chance of qualifying is minimal, they do represent a challenge for the others especially the lower ranked group teams. The economic situation of Lebanon would be the biggest off-field challange to their preparations for the third round.

SURPRISE…Dragan Skocic contract expires in 2023!

After achieving qualification to the third round of FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, the head of FFIRI announced on his return from Bahrain that the contract of Team Melli coach has expired and after consultation with board directors of the FFIRI, a decision will be forthcoming.

In an interview with a sports TV show last night in Iran, Dragan Skočić has said that his contract is valid up to 2023 and there is no requirement for any action unless the federation wants him out!

Despite the difficult job of achieving qualification after a disastrous run under the Belgian Wilmots, Dragan Skocic’s fate as Head Coach was put under question by the leader of Iran’s football federation.

While the Football Federation is said to be reluctant to continue working with Skocic, the Croatian coach insists he has a legally binding contract until 2023 and that the federation can only terminate his contract if Iran fails to qualify for the World Cup. In his interview, the Croat coach stated that his contract is simple and concise, he also mocked the contract of his predecessor Marc Wilmots, while saying that his contract figure is not as high as Wilmots.

“I am still the head coach of the Iranian national team and I have a contract,” said Skocic, who appeared on Channel 3 last night. “The fact that I am here and I talk to you in person means that I have not gone away and I have a contract. Of course, my contract is not as expensive as Wilmots’. The problem of deciding on my contract is not a big problem either.”

In response to the question of whether the contract was not until the end of the second qualifying round of the World Cup as claimed by Shahab Azizi Khadem, the head of FFIRI, Skocic emphatically said “NO”. He elaborated further ” My contract is valid until 2023, but the contract stipulates that if we do not advance to the next round or fail to qualify for the World Cup, the contract will be terminated. My contract is until 2023, but it is performance-based. My contract is available. I am telling you the facts.”

“My contract does not contain too many clauses and it is compact. The Wilmots contract, on the other hand, needs to be reviewed several times by experts to understand, if that, but my contract is concise. They can replace me whenever the federation thinks I’m not good enough.”

Asked if he has talked to the president of the FFIRI?”  Skocic said” I did not talk to the president of the football federation regarding the contract. There was no need to negotiate. “


“How is your relationship with the president FFIRI?” In response, Skočić replied “I have a normal and professional working relationship with the president of the federation. I do not expect a very warm relationship, but we do our job professionally.”

“You are right, but it is not a matter for me to decide,” Skočić said, referring to the fact that he had been speaking the FFIRI president for a long time after Team Melli achieved qualification to the next round but had not negotiated any term of the contract. “I am not the addressee of this question. I have a contract and other issues do not concern me. I am not here to see what the signs and symptoms are,” he said in response to the fact that all of this could be a sign that the federation is unwilling to continue working with him.”

“I did my job well. I have a contract and the management of the federation will decide. They have a responsibility. That’s the whole story. It’s a simple story. I know you want my answer to be more, but that’s all there is to it. “

Skocic on whether this is a normal situation that has not been negotiated with so far and they have not asked him for a plan for the next camp? He said “I had a lot of hard work done. I am proud to be the coach of a national team. My goal is to reach the World Cup. I had a considerable share in this success, but this is no longer my decision.”

Regarding his feelings about these rumors surrounding his future with Team Melli, he clarified ” I am a professional. I want to say from the bottom of my heart that I did not get involved in these matters. After this tournament, I was so tired that I could not even watch the Euro games anymore. I only watched the games of the Croatian national team and I could not think of anything more.”

Skočić, stating that we should look at Iran as one of the strongest teams in Asia, said about Iran’s possible opponents in the next stage: “We are seeded as the leader of our group, Japan being the other. We have to prepare ourselves for every match. It does not matter which team is grouped with us. Our quality is good enough to succeed in the next stage. I did my best and gave it everything I had. I was trusted to deliver and I did I do not worry about what decision is going to be made regarding my future” Skočić said.

“This is not my responsibility. I do not occupy my mind with things over which I have no control upon. My contribution to this success was considerable. I do not like to be pitiful or talk politically. I am ready to continue with the national team because I worked hard for 15 months. If the federation decides otherwise, we should know that I am an ordinary person.”

Besides the persistent stupid questions by the TV anchor, the fact that Shahab Aziz Khadem has clearly lied is quite an embarrassment. He is not the first head of FFIRI that has blatantly falsified the facts and mislead the public as all his predecessors have done so with impunity.  It is a pathetic but accepted fact that leaders and administrators of football federation lie quite often in Iran all in the name of the people of the country!!

No support for Skocic and dead silence in crucial days for Team Melli.

After the successful return of the squad from Bahrain, Azizi-Khadem, the president of the Football Federation commented on Skocic’s contract situation by saying that he should consult with the members of the board of directors of the Federation to come up with a decision!

After these incomprehensible and dumb words of the president, we no longer saw any official reaction;  except for the comments of the national team media director in an interview, in which he did not offer any sign of support to Skocic not even applauding his achievement!!

It seems like FFIRI either wants to force Skocic to withdraw from the contract negotiation or wait for the draw for the next qualifying round of the World Cup when Iran’s opponents will be known and thereafter evaluate if an extension of the contract with Skocic is worthwhile. That is precisely the reason why Carlos Queiroz’s rumors of a return to his old job are not explicitly denied by the Football Federation, according to some informed sources.

 In terms of domestic options, it does not seem that Yahya Golmohammadi or Amir Ghalehnoei, who have a multitude of problems in their own teams these days, will be candidates for the Team Melli bench. The only domestic option that remains in contention is that of Ali Daei, but it is not possible to determine his willingness to take the job with certainty. Common sense, however, dictates that the first choice of the FFIRI for Team Melli is Mr. Skocic.

These days, most of the fans and experts expect the Football Federation to renew Skocic’s contract, but on the other hand, no one knows what Dragan’s offers to extend the contract to the federation are. No one knows the amount he demanded from Azizi Khadem, no one knows how long he has planned for his contract.

It is only immense wishful thinking to expect proper organization and advanced planning of such an important appointment as Head Coach of Team Melli.  In Germany, the successor of Lowe in the national team (Mannschaft) is already known months ahead. No suspense, no drama, no under-the-table payment, no agent fees, and nothing but the interest of the National Team and the country. In Iran, that will be a miracle if such things occur. American Sanctions is such a good excuse for their incompetence, inadequacy, and lack of proffecency, they will revert to it if things fall apart.

VAR threatens Iran home games hosting!

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced yesterday that it will utilize the video assistance referee system (VAR) in the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers, which will commence by September 2021. Although it is not yet clear how this stage of the tournament will be held, the Saudi newspaper “Al-Eqtisadiyah”, quoting an informed source in the AFC, said that the organization’s intention is to hold the games based on home and away system. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the AFC decided that AFC Champions League for the past two seasons would be held in a single country. The second round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers was also held centrally in one country from each group (with the exception of the China group which was sh9fted to UAE after the authorities in China refused bending the quarantine rule).

if the AFC decided that the third round of the World Cup qualifiers will be carried out on a home and away basis. the use of VAR will be mandatory. Some Asian countries have not introduced such a system, amongst them is Iran.  This technology has been used in recent years in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, but Iran’s Football Federation (FFIRI) and the local broadcaster IRIB have not yet been able to purchase this system due to financial and infrastructure problems. One of the reasons Persepolis lost the hosting of the 2020 Asian Champions League final was the lack of VAR technology.

It seems that along with some other problems that Iranian football currently has to host, the lack of a VAR will further cause the Iranian national team to be deprived of hosting in the most critical stage of the World Cup qualifiers. Iran is seeded in pot A along with Japan for the third qualifying round of the World Cup and is likely to be grouped with teams such as Australia, South Korea, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE

FIFA Ranking for AFC third Round World Cup 2022 qualifiers

Kuala Lumpur: 12 teams in Asia are still in contention to qualify for the World Cup Round 3 draw to take place on 1 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The path to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ has reached a pivotal stage in Asia. Twelve teams have qualified for the third round after a nearly two-year long journey in Round 2.

Group winners Syria (A), Australia (B), IR Iran (C), Saudi Arabia (D), Japan (F), United Arab Emirates (G) and Korea Republic (H) will be joined by the five best runners-up: China PR (A), Oman (E), Iraq (C), Vietnam (G) and Lebanon (H).

Qatar finished as winners of Group E, but as hosts have already qualified for the World Cup and will not participate in the next round of qualifying.

What’s next?

The 12 teams will be split into two groups of six in a home-and-away, round-robin format. The winners and runners-up in each group (four total) will qualify directly for the World Cup Finals, while the third-placed teams will advance to a playoff, where they will play to determine which team will advance to the intercontinental playoff.

When’s the draw?

The third round draw will be conducted on 1 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Games in the third round are scheduled to be played on the following match days: 2 September 2021, 7 September 2021, 7 October 2021, 12 October 2021, 11 November 2021, 16 November 2021, 27 January 2022, 1 February 2022, 24 March 2022 and 29 March 2022

How will the seedings for the draw work?

FIFA has released a special FIFA Ranking specifically for Asia today, 18 June 2021, which will be used to determine the seeding for the draw. Qatar, while ranked fifth in this ranking and winners of Group E in Round 2, will not be participating in the third round.

How will the draw work?

Teams will be divided into six pots according to the FIFA Ranking published on 18 June 2021: Pot 1: Teams ranked 1-2, Pot 2: 3-4, Pot 3: 5-6, Pot 4: 7-8, Pot 5: 9-10, Pot 6: 11-12.

The pot number corresponds to the position the team will be placed in the group. The first and second ball drawn from each pot will be placed in Groups A and B respectively.

The draw will begin with Pot 6, where the first ball drawn will be placed in position A6. The next ball drawn will be placed in position B6, until the sequence is completed all the way through to Pot 1.


Iran files CAS complaint against AFC for awarding Bahrain World Cup qualifiers

The Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision to choose Bahrain as its centralized host for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The AFC said last month the remaining matches in the second round qualifying group, which features the hosts as well as Iran, Iraq, Cambodia, and Hong Kong, would be played in Bahrain in late May and early June.

Iran had been scheduled to play three of their last four group fixtures at home, including their return match against Bahrain, and protested to the AFC at being “deprived” of their right to host matches.

“After the announcement by the AFC Secretary-General that the decision was irreversible, the Iran Football Federation appealed against the decision … before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS),” read a statement posted on the federation’s website.

“The Football Federation of Iran has requested the Court of Arbitration for a speedy review of the case.”

The AFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iran has long had a fractious political relationship with Bahrain, tensions which were exacerbated when the island kingdom signed a peace treaty with Israel last year.

The Bahrain Football Association was fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($21,530.84) by FIFA for various offenses including the booing of the Iranian anthem during a World Cup qualifier between the nations in Riffa in 2019, which the hosts won 1-0.

Iran striker Mehdi Taremi last month raised questions about the extreme heat in Bahrain in May and June and alleged that the AFC, which is led by Bahraini royal Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, was routinely biased against his country.

Iraq leads Group C with Bahrain in second, while Iran, who have qualified for the last two World Cups, is third, five points behind the leaders with a game in hand.

Only the group winners of each of the eight groups in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are guaranteed to advance to the next phase of the competition.

The matches are due to be played from May 31 until June 15 after the COVID-19 pandemic saw all of Asia’s World Cup qualifiers postponed during 2020.

In mid-March, the AFC awarded Bahrain hosting rights for Group C in Asian qualifying after deciding to keep the upcoming fixtures in one place due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Cup hosts Qatar, as well as China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea, were all respectively awarded hosting duties for their respective groups.

Later that month, the AFC sent a letter to the FFIRI in which it insisted that Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC President, had not intervened in selecting his home country for the qualifiers.

“While we appreciate the interest by the FFIRI to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, we would like to inform that the decision was made by the AFC general secretariat after due consideration and deliberation, factoring various areas, including but not limited to the standard of the proposed stadiums, risk assessment on logistical, commercial and financial arrangements for the participating member associations as well as the national COVID-19 pandemic status,” read the letter.

“The AFC President does not intervene in the decisions made by the AFC general secretariat.”

The FFIRI has since announced it would be appealing the hosting rights being given to Bahrain.

“The AFC has chosen Bahrain as the centralized venue and has said the venue cannot be changed at all,” read a statement from FFIRI, as reported by the Tehran Times.

“We’ve asked CAS to take the issue into consideration as soon as possible.”

Bahrain is set to host the remainder of the Asian Group C qualifying matches ©Getty Images
Bahrain is set to host the remainder of the Asian Group C qualifying matches ©Getty Images

It is reported that the Bahrain Football Association submitted its interest to host the group on February 16 and offered to pay Iran’s expenses for the competition the following day.

The Tehran Times reported that Kuwait was awarded hosting over group rivals Jordan in respect to fair play, giving Kuwait their anticipated home tie.

Iran was not given this same treatment in relation to Bahrain, with its football authorities expressing concerns over a two-week period in late March and refusing to travel to Bahrain’s capital Manama for a proposed meeting on April 3.

FFIRI had to file an appeal to CAS by March 31, which it reportedly did minutes ahead of the legal deadline and this was acknowledged last Monday (April 5). An online meeting involving AFC President Sheikh Salman and AFC general secretary Dato’ Windsor John took place on Tuesday (April 6), but the Iran appeal was not discussed. Iran had been scheduled to host three of the four remaining matches before COVID-19 caused issues with qualifying. These were set to take place in Tehran against rivals Iraq, Bahrain, and Hong Kong, while their only away game against Cambodia was set to be held in Pnom Penh.

“Fair Play” that has gone with the wind.


Team Melli head coach Dragan Skocic and Mehdi Taremi questioned AFC’s decision to hold World Cup qualifiers in Bahrain saying the decision was not made in the best interests of the participants.

They were not alone by any means as this great disappointment his all level of football in Iran which was counting of hosting 3 home matches against Hong Kong. Bahrain and Iraq.


Nothing is furthest away from “Fair Play” than the decision by AFC to award the hosting of group C remaining matches of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers to Bahrain.

Iran has already played in Bahrain and lost. Iran is within its full right to avenge that defeat and become a contender by given its legitimate right to play Bahrain in Iran (be it Tehran, Tabriz, or Esfahan).  But to the shock of many, Bahrain was awarded the hosting!

There has to be some process matrix in taking such a decision, at least that is what many think. It should not be arbitrarily, politically motivated, based on favoritism, or based on factors beyond sport.

It is worth looking at a simple comparison. Surely it is not rocket science to figure. When it comes to accommodation and logistics, perhaps Bahrain beats Iraq and Cambodia, but it is way behind Hong Kong and at in a best-case scenario on par with Iran.

If we take the weather factor, then Bahrain is right at the bottom of the table. P{laying football in the heat and high humidity of June in the Persian Gulf countries, is not for the faint-hearted and is a hazard to the players, especially those who are not accustomed to such weather.

That is why FIFA moved the World Cup 2022 dates to November/December where the climate is much milder and pleasant. It was a major historical decision but in the end, it was the right one for all involved. The question now is, how come these weather considerations have not been applied in the case of awarding the hosting to Bahrain?

Iran is a big country, and it could host matches in cities ideal weather. The average temperature of Tabriz in June is 14.8 °C  to 26.6°C. It has the second biggest stadium which was recently renovated too.

If we are talking about Venues, Iran leads all of the group teams in a number of Stadia and facilities.

Apparently, AFC’s decision process is nothing like that.

The Iranians are furious at the AFC decision and have demanded an explanation, but seriously, no one expects AFC to provide any logical reasoning beyond its own. The world witnessed how football is administered by the ruling bodies. It is an autocratic system and one-sided which means the right to appeal and grievances are nothing but ceremonial especially if it involves commercial rights and financial interests.

In the corridors of Arab-dominated AFC, Iran has been deprived of many of its rights and the biased decisions against it are aplenty. The Iranian federation’s managers have played a major role in Iran losing so many cases, or at least not being given any favors. In general, these rulings are controlled by minnows albeit with quite a few accumulated votes. The Iranian representations in the AFC have been weak. The ineffectiveness of FFIRI management is institutional as a consequence of a system of appointment in the shape of a so-called election of the federation. Incompetent personnel reaches leadership posts due to their political influence more than their administrational skills and abilities.

Politics is quite rife in Iran’s federation, blame culture is a standard mode of operation, the current one accuses his predecessors, and the cycle repeats itself. The recently appointed President of the Football Federation (FFIRI) Shahab Azizi-Khadem was very quick to issue a long emotional communique accusing the previous administration of incompetency and lack of effort that resulted in the loss of the hosting rights. No one is in any illusion that this Azizi-Khdem will do any better than the rest of them, however.


Iranian fans are the eventual losers in all cases. When a small country like Bahrain has one of its subjects heading the Asian football ruling body, and good luck to them, it is no wonder that the decision of hosting the World Cup 2022 qualifiers tilted towards Bahrain. One needs to ask, why Iran a country with thousands of years of civilization is unable to produce competent representatives and candidates for the presidency of the AFC , or at least someone who can protect its interest in Kula Lumpur.

The decision for Bahrain hosting was taken way back before the announcement two days ago. AFC was just trying to create justifications, which until the writing of this article was not publicized.

Let’s end this with a quick quiz.

When is “Fair Play” the slogan that has been promoted by FIFA in football for many years, not a “Fair Play”?

If you guessed any of the answers below, then it is not too far from the truth:

  • When fair play is applied by AFC.
  • When your opponent in the World Cup qualifiers whom you have already played away and lost, has a man in the top of the AFC Pyramid.
  • When you play the same opponent in home and away format, at the opponent’s venue twice.
  • When playing in 29°C to 38°C degrees temperature and humidity that can be up to 90% (59% average) is much healthier and cooler for the players than high altitude mild weather of Tehran (average of 20.1°C to 34.5°C) with Maximum Humidity of 10%
  • When Covid19 is used as the ultimate excuse for bending the rules and breaking it.

Of course, we can go on and provide you a full sheet but we believe that you have caught the drift.

Isa Al Kasir suspended for six months!

Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee has banned Isa Alkasir, of Persepolis FC, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity for six months for violating Article 58.1 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code (2019 Edition). The ban will take effect immediately.

The player, who was also fined USD10,000, was found to have used a discriminatory gesture during the AFC Champions League (West) game against Pakhtakor on September 30, 2020, in Doha, Qatar.

Article 58.1 states that anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory, or denigratory words or actions concerning race, skin color, gender, disability, language, age, physical appearance, religion, political opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation, or ethnic, national, or social origin has committed an offense.

Al Kasir’s goal celebration is normally quite eccentric and has led to several awards of yellow cards, the last one was in the AFC Champions League matches when he took off his jersey after scoring, a punishable offense. In the offense that led to his ban, Al Kasir seemed to stretch both his eyes with his hands. Not clear what kind of a weird celebration was that or what or who Al Kasir was mocking. However, a Bahraini National Team player had a similar ban by FIFA after making a similar gesture to Al Kasir. Bahrain was playing Hong Kong away and the Bahrain player seemed to be mocking the Chinese race which is certainly a violation and a racist gesture. In Al Kasir’s case, there was no Chinese involved unless there is a hidden motive that only the AFC and Al Kasir understand.

Al Kasir not only misses the crucial semi-final of the AFC Champions League but also is deprived of a chance to play for Team Melli for the next six months. He was a strong candidate for selection in the Dragan Skocic list before his stupidity and petulant act.  Al Kasir ( his proper name is Isa Al Katheer, rather than the Iranian pronunciation) is a player from Khuzestan of Arab origin.

Saman Ghoddos heading to the Championship outfit Brentford.

Brentford agreed a deal with Amiens to sign attacking midfielder Saman Ghoddos.

The Ligue 2 outfit has given the Team Melli player the green light to leave the club after their relegation from France’s top flight last season as per a contract clause.

A source at Brentford has told Football Insider that the 27-year-old has already undertaken his medical over in France and that the move is set to be completed shortly. Ghoddos will have to undergo the mandatory 2 weeks self-quarantine as per British regulation on new arrivals into the country.

Ghoddos has been a long-term target for Bees boss Thomas Frank and the Championship outfit tried to sign the playmaker last summer.

However, he remained with Amiens but spent most of the season on the sidelines through both suspension and injury as the club were relegated.

He was suspended from playing for four months and fined by FIFA after he reneged on a written contract with Spanish outfit SD Huesca to move to France.

Having returned to action back in January this year, he suffered a hip injury which kept him sidelined for seven league games and he managed to make just two more appearances before the French football season was cut short.

The 21-cap international star now looks set to bolster Brentford’s side as Frank’s men look to bounce back from their play-off disappointment last season. The team is one of the challengers for promotion to the premier league this season.

Brentford kicked off the 20/21 campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham, although they progressed to the next round of the League Cup with a 2-0 win over Southampton.