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Another turtle pace progress in Privatization.

For the last two decades, subsequent governments in Iran have promised that Persepolis and Esteghlal clubs will be privatized and handed over to the private sector.

The Privatization saga first started in the tenure of President Mohammed Khatami, however, he left without much progress on the issue. The next President, Ahmadinejad, a passionate football fan, was the most enthusiastic supporter of this project and many thought Persepolis and Esteghlal will finally escape from total government control and be run as a proper and professional sports club.

Ahmadinejad, left and like many of his projects, the clubs privatization never saw the light of the day.  Hassan Rouhani, seen by many as a pragmatic and relatively liberal president took over. Like his predecessor, Rouhani was a strong football supporter who also liked to see the two most popular clubs privatized.

 So far, what culminated from the government’s Privatization project is nothing but false promises and heartaches for the fans.  Every now and then, the Ministry of youth and sports pops up with statements, further plans and more promises to keep the fans quiet. The timing that the authorities pick to talk about its Privatization project and normally coincides with periods of public discontent with the government and economy in Iran. Recently, Iran has experienced deadly countrywide protests against the authorities for huge increases in fuel prices.

The latest promise in this saga is the recent Youth and Sports statement of the transfer of the two stadiums (basically, training facilities) in Darfeshifar and Marghoubkar and their registration in the name of the two clubs Esteghlal and Persepolis.

ISNA quoting the Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Taghizadeh, said “this transfer has been the most effective privatization steps during this recent years,” He also added “Persepolis Club has carried out brand registration operations for forty-five brands  with Corporate Registration Bureau and we are looking forward to the same step to be taken by Esteghlal”

“ So far we have held nineteen meetings with the managers of the Privatization Organization and Stock Exchange for the transfer of the two stadiums and the brand registration of Esteghlal and Persepolis clubs as assets. It has been the most effective privatization steps during this period. “

Taghizadeh said at the end: “The trademark registration is one of the most important programs of Privatization to the concerned organizations and so far Persepolis Club has successfully carried out brand registration operations.”

Iran’s bi-polar football where everything starts and ends with the two famous Tehran clubs. Persepolis and Esteghlal have been siphoning millions of dollars from government budgets since the revolution. The regime, being careful of the political sensitivity and the popularity of these two clubs hence their clear influence on the masses, have turned blind eyes on the amount of chronic corruption and mismanagement existing in these two clubs by executives and managers who are sanctioned and appointed by the government itself.

Allowing women into football stadiums under the current environment isn’t desirable.

After the conclusion of the weekly Council of Ministers meeting, Mahmoud Vaezi, the Director of the Iranian President’s Office stated in a press briefing, indicates that the government has not given the green light for women attendance in stadiums and the matter is still under review. This comes after what is believed was an assurance by FFIRA to FIFA that women will be allowed in Team Melli matches in the near future.

With the latest development, it seems that Iran’s football federation FFIRI which in practice has no control or authority in the decision making about the issue of women attending, and FIFA the world governing body , will reach a flashpoint. It is feared that FIFA will sanction Iran and Team Melli will be victimized.

Mahmoud Vaezi, said in his briefing “In the last few months, we have been having a lot of discussions in the council about the subject of allowing women in stadiums. We firmly believe that if the stadiums were safe and suitable for women, we don’t mind their presence, however with the current situation and atmosphere where that fans trade insults, use profanities, engage in fighting and throw dangerous articles at each other, the presence of women in the stadium is not practical and also dangerous. The Director of the President’s office said minister concerned was instructed to speak to the leaders of the teams to facilitate the creation of a clean environment and space for women to be present, as well as a suitable exclusive area for women to enter without being subjected to hardship. If the atmosphere at the stadium is ethical and appropriate, in our opinion, the presence of women in the stadiums will not be an issue.

Mahmoud Vaezi is the de facto spokesperson of President Hassan Rouhani. It is safe to assume that he is speaking on behalf of the President. Although his statement to the press sounded rational what he failed to mention was that the onus is on the government to provide the right atmosphere for women and not for Minister of Sport to ask the Leaders of Esteghlal and Persepolis to do that. This sounds quite comical and superficial.

The issue of women entering stadiums is not even in the full control of the government as the final decision on such matters is in the hand of the Grand Ayatollah who views women mixing with men in public places as a great sin.

There is no guarantee that Rouhani’s government decision will not be reversed by Khamenaei in this matter.

It is true that the atmosphere in the Iranian stadiums is toxic. Attending a football match in Azadi is a challenge for every human being especially in big games. It is a combination of chaos, disorganization, safety risks such as accident, stampede, flying objects, fireworks and stones throwing not to mention the logistics. Interestingly enough, carrying a genuine match ticket does not guarantee you getting your seat or even entering the stadium in the first place!.

Although much of these issues are due to the behaviour of the fans and lack of respect for the law, the organizers have a lion share of the blame too. Responsibilities seemed to be vague at times, exercising authority ultimately seem to be the domain of security forces rather than administrators or organizers.

Nothing seems to work flawlessly in Azadi as incompetence is rife.  Iran is probably the only country in the world and member of FIFA that never actually publishes an official attendance figure, for the simple reason of lack of control. They simply cannot count how many people pass through the turnstiles, or maybe they do not publish attendance figures on purpose to hide the number of unlawful entries.

As a person who experienced such hardships in Azadi Stadium, I can very much empathize with the government view and its objective to protect women from some beasts and possible catastrophe. The government concern is genuine and it is not based on religious ideologue.   The government, however, cannot escape responsibilities as it needs to sort its own house. It is the government responsibility to provide safe and sound space for women.

The social and cultural issues in the stadiums cannot be different than what exists in the streets or the bazar where men and women mix all the time and there is no restriction

President Rouhani receives Teami Melli delegation

The President of Islamic Republic of Iran congratulated the players and the technical staff in a meeting with the national football team (Team Melli).

 President Hassan Rouhani, Minister of Sports and Youth Masoud Soltanifar , Team head Coach Carlos Queiroz, and Cruz on behalf of the technical staff, Masoud Shojaei, Ehsan Haj Safi, Ashkan Dejagah, Karim Ansari Fard, Pejman Montazeri, Reza Ghoochannejad and Alireza Beyranvand were honored on behalf of the players and the secretary of the Football Federation and the head of the national team.

Rouhani also praised Iran’s refereeing team at the World Cup. Alireza Faghan, Reza Sokhtaneh and Mohammad Reza Mansouri are Iranian referees in the World Cup.

In this ceremony, Jersey No.2 of Team Melli was awarded to Hassan Rouhani.

Team Melli  which is  heading for the second consecutive World Cup and its fifth time in the World Cup, met with President Hassan Rouhani today (Sunday) and will be scheduled for a few minutes at a ceremony held at the Vahdat Hall of Tehran.  Hassan Rouhani met with members of the national team four years ago on the occasion of the national team’s ascent to the 2014 World Cup.

The influence of sport in Rouhani’s re-election.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected as the country’s leader with 57 percent of the vote on 20th May 2017. The reformer has been able to rely on the support of several well-known sportsmen. In Iran, politics and sports are never far from each other.

With 23.5 million votes, Hassan Rouhani was re-elected to the presidency of Iran on May 20, 2017. While 42 percent of registered voters chose this reformer, the proportion of top-level sportsmen voted for him May have been higher still. With such a young population, the polls were filled with the age group that idolize sportmen and hence their vote were certainly influenced by what their idols backed. 

Prior to the poll, Hassan Rouhani had the favors of several retired or active footballers, such as Ali Karimi, Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri, three local legends who played in the German Bundesliga.

The other disciplines cherished in Iran have not been left behind, according to the official website of Rouhani campaign and some sports media. The names of 2012 Olympic champions Behdad Salimi (weightlifting) and Omid Norouzi (Greco-Roman wrestling) featured alongside those of volleyball players and chess players.

Conservative Ebrahim Raisi less sustained

The conservative Ebrahim Raisi, Rouhani’s main rival, apparently could not count on the same support from the country’s sports elites, even though the head of the Iranian Olympic Committee (Kioumars Hashemi) seemed to be on his side, that of course counted for very little.

Sports and religion do not always do well … Besides, since his first victory in 2013, Hassan Rouhani has tried to dissociate power and sport, at least in appearance. In November 2013, after a wave of success, he declared: “If we look at the excellent successes in sports, we do not do much for it. We have only helped to shadow the policy on sports. “

Politics and sports are “intertwined” in Iran

Houchang Chehabi , a professor of international relations and history at Boston University, believes that wishes are more than a reality. Sports and politics ” are undoubtedly interwoven, says the researcher. In the Islamic Republic, all cultural aspects are politicized, including sport. The best example is the career of Faezeh Rafsanjani, the daughter of the late president of Iran [from 1989 to 1997, Editor’s note] Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani . It has revived the sport of women. “

If politicians are involved in sport, sportsmen and sportsmen also engage in the political life of their country. ”Their involvement goes back to the pre-revolutionary period ,” explains Houchang Chehabi. Even before 1979 revolution, the Olympic champion Gholamreza Takhti,  the cult figure and the hero of the underprivileged was known for his supporter of Mohammad Mossadegh [ Prime Minister of the country in the years 1950 , Editor’s note] against the Shah “, recalls the scholar. Another Olympic wrestling champion, Emamali Habibi was placed in Parliament. Since the mid-1990s, athletes have been giving their opinions. The Tehran City Council is full of former sportsmen. “

The place of women in sport, a recurring debate

When debate arises in sport today, it often concerns the place of women on the grounds or in the stands. Females are rarely admitted in mixed enclosures since the Revolution. In February, however, spectators were allowed to attend a beach volleyball tournament as a result of pressure from outside.

Diplomatic considerations also regularly invade land, rings and tatamis. In 1998, as a sign of peace, Iranian footballers had posed with their American opponents just before a World Cup match. Conversely, threats of boycotting confrontations with athletes from Israel or Saudi Arabia sometimes interfere with the image of Iranian sport.

Iranian athletes and teams are the only sportsmen in the world who are officially barred by the country policies and religious pressure to meet Israeli counterparts. Many Iranian have been barred, suspended or thrown out of tournaments for refusing to compete against what the Iranian government label as the Zionist state or the occupier of the holy land, however, such disciplinary and punitive measures have not stopped the Iranians as it continues unabated until today!

At the beginning of the revolution, sportsmen and teams were unashamedly influenced by the regime and the revolutionary fervor spreading through the country. In the eighties Every Iranian team had to display some kind of religious or political banner in support of their leader Khomeini, to the disgust of the rest of the world. However, with the emergence of the Rafsanjani and his political wisdom and pragmatism, these exhibitions of unwelcomed religious and political propaganda all but disappeared.

Note: Part of this report is reproduced from rfi.fr

Fifa’s Sepp Blatter calls on Iran to end stadium ban for women

Sepp Blatter has asked Iran to end its ban on women watching football matches, describing the situation as intolerable.

“When I travelled to Iran in November 2013, I was not only confronted with huge popular enthusiasm from football but also a law forbidding women from attending football matches,” the Fifa president wrote in the governing body’s weekly magazine. “I raised the topic at my meeting with the president of Iran Hassan Rouhani, and came away with the impression that this intolerable situation could change over the medium term.

“However, nothing has happened. A collective ‘stadium ban’ still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women’s football organization. This cannot continue. Hence, my appeal to the Iranian authorities; open the nation’s football stadiums to women.”

During the Asian Cup in Australia this year, Iran’s support included thousands of women who were free to show up in Australia, without any dress restrictions. Their female supporters also become a big hit with local media, prompting the Iranian authorities to remind the players to be wary of posing for photographs that may be posted on social media.

Iran is bidding against the United Arab Emirates to host the 2019 Asian Cup and the ban on women is expected to damage their chances of being awarded the tournament.

Blatter also criticized the continental confederations for failing to elect any women on to the Fifa’s executive committee. The committee includes three women, one with voting rights and two co-opted but they are elected directly by the Fifa Congress following a change to the statutes in 2011.

“This was hard work because the members of Fifa’s executive committee are elected by the national associations in their [continental] Congresses and … there was never, never a proposal for a woman to be finally in Fifa,” Blatter told an event at Fifa headquarters in Zurich. “We had to take the decision, and I did it in 2011 at the end of the Congress, I said we must have at least one woman on the executive committee,” he said.

“In all the confederations, there is no woman … this macho sport, and that’s a pity, we should change in the future.”

women in stadium 593x310

A disgraceful act by the Ministry of sport official.  

 Humiliation and indignation of a person in public, is considered an offense punishable by law in every country of the world including Iran which has a strict law against such misdemeanor.

Last night on one of the most popular TV shows in Iran , a Ministry of Youth and sport official who was contacted by phone by Adel Ferdowsipour, the presenter of Navad, to explain the reasons behind the rejection of Zlatko Kranjcar as the Head Coach of Omid team , stated that his Ministry has rejected the Croat coach , not based on technical merits but on cultural issues because the Croat is an Alcoholic!

When challenged by the presenter if there are any evidences of such claims and whether it has been verified by a law force, Police or the judicial system, the Ministry of sports official responded that they have enough evidence against him although he was not prosecuted nor accused of any wrongdoing by a law force!

This public accusation in front of millions of viewers carried out without giving the accused person the right to defend himself , which is a basic human right,  amount to defamation and invasions of privacy. It is also a prosecution and public trial by the Ministry official who has neither legal authority nor the jurisdictions to conduct a trial.

What makes the matter even worse and certainly shameful, is that the Ministry of Youth and Sport has been asking for calm and serenity while advising the media and sport personalities not to engage in public quarrels and accusations, at the time when both the Minister and his deputy , and now this official is doing exactly the opposite of what they preach and claim.

  In some civil law jurisdictions, defamation is treated as a crime rather than a civil wrongdoing.  Recently , Mayeli-Kohan was jailed for such violations and slanders , which was a strong message to anyone who dares to wrongly accuse others without evidence. Will this official be put on trial or will the government use its veto to cover his wrongdoing?

 How long will the pragmatic and progressive President Rouhani , tolerate the Minster of Youth and Sports and his men, notorious for their meddling, agitations and public hostility with the football federation,  is another question that is beginning to be asked by many observers.

A president who was elected on a campaign that promised free expression , respect for people privacy and  letter of law must surely be embarrassed and concerned by the antics of the Ministry of Youth and Sport which has put the name of football in Iran in disrepute, according to Mehr News agency.

Kranjčar ultimatum to FFIRI  

The Croat coach has given Ali Kaffashian and the football federation up to this weekend to decide on his  approval and appointment as the head coach of Omid Team (U23) else he will be responding to other offers. Peykan is the prime candidate for the services of the Zlatko Kranjčar and has been quite active in pursuing him following the sacking of their coach, Mansour Ebrahimzadeh last week.

Kranjčar was all set to join the FFIRI as a coach with approvals granted internally with in the federation administrations including the president himself. However, a telephone call from the Ministry of Youth and Sport put a halt to all that. A day after Kaffashian confirmed to the press that Kranjcar is appointed he retreated and changed his wording by claiming that there are a few pending issues!

It is not clear what objection the Ministry has against Kranjcar appointment. Although the international football laws of FIFA prohibits government interference in football and has already sanctioned Iran for doing so right after the World Cup 2006, such meddling and imposition is quite common under the table and behind closed doors. With a submissive and compliant management at the helm of FFIRI, the decision making process of the federation must seek the blessing and approval of the Minister before implementation, else the wrath of the Ministry.

Mahmoud Goudarzai , the Minister of Youth and Sports.

Despite the on-going denials of the Ministry and its legal arm, it is a common knowledge that Minister , Mahmoud Goudarzi was instrumental in delaying the finalization of Queiroz contact until the 11th hours. The Minster of Youth and Sports has been quite active in manipulating managerial and coaching position in its two prize assets, Persepolis and Esteghlal which are authoritatively, wholly owned by the government.

Mahmoud Goudarzi , a former wrestler, was the fourth candidate that was suggested by President Hassan Rouhani to the Parliament for approval as Minister of Youth and Sport. 3 previous candidates of  the President were rejected by the parliament. Iran is the only Middle East country that has such a democratic system.  Mahmoud Goudarzi won the approval by a small margin.


Iran’s President Rouhani expects Team Melli to qualify for the next round.

In a routine press briefing , President Hassan Rouhani expressed his delight at Team Melli being among the elite in FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil and said that the team should display a  professional and brave style of football

Asked by a journalist about the government plan to support Team Melli , the President responded “The interest of our people in football is quite immense and that should lead to the development of professional standards. My message to the team was that we expect you to play a good football,  professionally and  valiantly. Of course we want the team to succeed and qualify for the next round. The team should play with high spirit and utilize the best techniques.”

“If Team Melli is successful in Brazil , we have good news for them!” The President has concluded.

The President remained non-committal towards any specific financial aid to football especially in the aftermath of the parliament’s critical views on money that is being siphoned from the public coffers towards football. However , it is interesting to note that President Rouhani is reflecting the views of the majority that expect Iran to qualify for the next round as our own polls indicate.


Sepp Blatter to visit Iran

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter the Swiss national President of FIFA is to pay a one day visit to Iran on  6th November 2013.

Hamed Momeni , the FFIRI coordinator has announced the scheduled visit and stated that he is in coordination with the office of the President of Iran , Hassan Rouhani to arrange an audience with the FIFA boss.

On the program for the visit , Momeni said that Blatter will have a meeting with the Minister of Youth and sports  as well as participation in the sport seminar.

Blatter next destination after the one day visit will be the UAE.

Iran continues its domination of Asian futsal with an Aussie drubbing.

Dubai – Maktoum bin Rashid Arena – Al Wasl Club..

Iran futsal team dominated their strongest group rival and scored 9 goals without return in what was dubbed as the battle for group leadership. At the end , it was just another practice session for the Persians as they run over Australia 9-0 in a one sided match.

Vahid Shamsaei , the ever green Iranian Captain was on the score sheet again as he lead his young teammates to an emphatic third victory on a row scoring an average of 10 goals a game ( Played 3 Won 3 Goals for 31 against 1). The first half ended 5-0 for Iran and despite some strong efforts by the Australians , they could not manage to penetrate the solid Iranian defense. On the rare occasion that they managed , Nazari , Iran’s goalkeeper was more than capable of handling any threats.

Iran , therefor concludes its group matches with an impressive record. Team Melli will be facing Uzbekistan in the Quarter Finals on Monday.