Tag: Ehsan HAJSAFY

Team Melli players in European Club competitions

The European Clubs championships will start in earnest this evening with matches in the UEFA Champions League UCL on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the Europa League which is traditionally played on Thursdays.

6 Team Melli players will be involved in the European club competitions this season. Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sadegh Moharrami, Sardar Azamoun, Ehsan Hajsafi and Milad Mohammadi. We will look at the individual players’ performances in the early season, their effectiveness for their clubs, chances of playing, and chances of their club qualification to the next round. The three competitions they are involved in are the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League.

Mehdi Taremi (FC Porto): presently he is without a doubt the most prominent amongst the Team Melli legionnaires possessing the highest value for his club. Being a key player with Porto and a title defender, there are a lot of expectations from Taremi. Despite some off-the-field distractions, that might have affected him, he returned back to what he does best by scoring the winning goal away to Estrela da Amadora last weekend. This season, Taremi started 4 out of 5 club matches.

FC Porto is in Group H which has the mighty Barcelona as the favorite, but also the Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk and Belgian Royal Antwerp. It is a tough group but Porto remains in contention for one of the two qualifying places.

Playing Status: Starter
Effectiveness: 8.5 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 70%

Alireza Jahanbaksh (Feyenoord): The Team Melli Captain is not experiencing the best of times. His form has dipped considerably and he is now glued to the bench in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord. He played in two out of 5 league matches with only one starting and one as a substitute. Jahanbaksh neither scored nor provided any assists this season.

Feyenoord is in Group E of the UEFA Champions League along with favorites Atletico Madrid, Celtic, and Lazio, It is an even group but hardly an easy pass for Feyenoord, which will start with a match against the Scottish Champions Celtic on Tuesday 19th September.

Playing Status: Substitute
Effectiveness: 3.5 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 68%

Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb): The Team Melli right-back has been having a good season with the Croatian champions. His rating has been amongst the best and also provided one assist in the 5 matches he has already played for the club.

In the Europa Conference League, Dinamo Zagreb is in Group C along with; Balkani (Kosovo), FC Astana (Kazakhstan), and Viktoria Plzen (Czechia). The former is the closest rival to Dinamo Zagreb. The first match is on Thursday 21st September.

Playing Status: Starter
Effectiveness: 7.5 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 80%

Sardar Azmoun (Roma): After a shaky season with Bayer Leverkusen marred by long-term injuries, Azmoun is now on loan with AS Roma coached by Mourinho. Team Melli striker will not enjoy the UEFA Champions League this term as Roma is playing in the Europa League. Azmoun made his debut last Sunday as a late substitute for Romelo Lukaku in a 7-0 thrashing of bottom Club Empoli

Azmoun had a slow season start so far in Rome mainly due to injuries he carried from Leverkusen plus some personal issues. AS Roma is in Group G with FC Sheriff, Servette, and Slavia Prague and will begin the campaign with the Modovan Champions FC Sheriff on Thursday 21st September.

Playing Status: Substitute
Effectiveness: 4.5 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 75%

Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens): Team Melli Captain and most capped player has had a mixed season with the club. He has started 1 out of 3 league matches although he was also a starter in the UCL Qualifiers which AEK Athens lost narrowly to Antwerp.

AEK Athens is in a strong group that includes, The Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, Ajax Amsterdam, and Marseille. It is arguably the strongest group in the Conference League and the Greek club needs to be at its best to have a chance of qualifying. The mission starts on Thursday with a match away to Brighton.

Playing Status: Substitute
Effectiveness: 6 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 35%

Milad Mohammadi (AEK Athens): started 2 of the 3 matches in the Greek league and played the full 90 minutes each time as a left-back. He seems to be growing in confidence this season after a mixed season in 2022/2023.

Playing Status: Starter
Effectiveness: 6.5 out of 10
Chances of qualifying: 35%

Team Melli Squad list announced.

Team Melli will play complete its FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 schedule by playing a double-header against South Korea and Lebanon on March 24th and 29th respectively. With a day before flying to Seoul on a chartered plane. the squad for the two matches was announced. Iran has qualified for the finals in Qatar and will be battling the Koreans for a top-of-the-table finish and more importantly a significant addition of points in FIFA ranking. The draw in June will seed countries for the Finals based on total points in FIFA Ranking.

Dragan Skočić has announced the list of players invited to the national team camp. The Croat coach is desperate to keep his immaculate, near-perfect record with Team Melli after over two years from his appointment replacing the perpetual failure Marc Wilmots.

The names of the invited players:

    • Goalkeepers:
  1. Alireza Biranvand
  2. Amir Abedzadeh
  3. Hossein Hosseini
    • Defenders:
  4. Sadegh Moharremi
  5. Hossein Kananizadegan
  6. Shoja’a Khalilzadeh
  7. Majid Hosseini
  8. Omid Nourafkan
  9. Milad Mohammadi
  10. Daniel Ismaelifar
  11. Farshad Faraji
  12. Aref Gholami
    • Midfielders:
  13. Saeed Ezatollahi
  14. Kamal Kamiyabinia
  15. Mehdi Mehdipour
  16. Amirhossein Hassanzadeh
  17. Milad Sarlak
  18. Ehsan Haj Safi
  19. Vahid Amiri
  20. Mehdi Torabi
  21. Ahmad Noorollahi
  22. Saman Ghoddos
  23. Ali Gholizadeh
    • Forwards:
  24. Mehdi Taremi
  25. Alireza Jahanbakhsh
  26. Sardar Azmoun
  27. Karim Ansarifard
  28. Allahyar Sayadmanesh

Two players Saeed Ezatollahi and Sadegh Moharremi are suspended for the Korea Rep match with an accumulation of two cards, while Hossein Kananizadegan is surprisingly included in the list despite being sanctioned by the disciplinary committee!!

Milad Mohammadi signs for AEK Athens

The Team Melli left-back, who has been in Athens since Wednesday, successfully completed the medical and ergometric examinations on Thursday, and after the completion of formalities, he headed to AEK Headquarters and signed his contract with the club.

Milad Mohammadi leaves Gent and knockeing on AEK Athens doors.

Milad Mohammadi, the left-back of Team Melli, who was playing for the  Belgian team  Gent, unexpectedly terminated his contract with the club and is currently a free agent without a team.

According to Greek media, Mohammadi has reached an agreement with AEK Athens and is on the verge of joining the team. Greece’s “sdna” website reported that Mohammadi had even been issued a plane ticket to travel to Greece for medicals and that the player would travel to Athens today to sign a contract and finalize the details of his transfer. According to this site, a few months ago, during the summer transfers window, AEK offered Gent a net amount of 700,000 Euros for the transfer of Milad Mohammadi in addition to some significant rewards for the Belgian club, but the player’s agent claimed that he had more suitors and believed Mohammadi will have better offers before the transfer windows close. This, whoever, did not materialize. Gent pressured Mohammadi to extend his contract, which expires in 2022, but the player refused and the Belgian club recruited another player.

Eventually, Gant and Mohammadi mutually agreed to terminate the contract. It was after that that the president of AEK Athens started his efforts to attract Mohammadi and this transfer is on the verge of being finalized. SDNA predicted that with the presence of Milad Mohammadi on the left side of the AEK defense, Ehsan Haj Safi’s position will change and the captain of the Iranian national team, being such a versatile player will occupy other posts. Karim Ansarifard is another Iranian player of the AEK team who can help Mohammadi familiarize and incorporate into this team sooner and faster.

Official: Ehsan Hajsafi signs with AEK Athens.

Team Melli Captain Ehsan Hajsafy joined the Greek club AEK Athens. HajSafi who traveled to Athens after finishing his season with Sepahan in the 20th edition of the Persian Gulf League, officially signed a contract with the Greek side this evening. The contract of the captain of the Iranian national team with this club is until the end of the summer of 2023.

Hajsafi will be joining Karim Ansarifard in AEK Athens.

Hajsafi (31 years) previously played for Panionios in the 2017–2018 season and played 14 matches scoring 1 goal before moving briefly to 2018 Olympiacos where he played 6 times and scored 1 goal. AEK is one of the three most successful teams in Greek football (including Olympiacos and Panathinaikos), winning 30 national titles. The team is coached by the Serbian Vladan Milojević.

Hajsafi has played 113 games for Team Melli since his debut against Zambia in a friendly in May 2008. He scored 6 goals for Team Melli.

Good test for Wilmots against Hong Kong

Hong Kong returns home for their second Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifier and, after a disappointing 1-1 draw away against Cambodia, they host Asia’s top-ranked team, Iran.
While Tuesday’s game already has a make-or-break feel to it for Hong Kong in their effort to make it through to a first World Cup finals and qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the same is not true for the opposition.

The heavy favourites to top the group will play their first game in this qualifying campaign when they visit Hong Kong Stadium.

There were fears the match would not go-ahead after the Iranian Football Federation appealed for the match to be played on neutral ground because of the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong.

Iran’s Sardar Azmoun dribbles past China’s Feng Xiaoting in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final. Photo: Xinhua

Despite the official protest, FIFA has not appeared to have agreed to the Iranians request, hence it takes full responsibility on players safety. It is generally assumed that the political protest by Hong Kong residents will have very little or no effect on the match.

With the game going ahead as planned, Hong Kong may have a chance on the pitch with Team Melli having slipped up in the past by failing to take seriously.

 Iranians had at times some tendency to “underestimate” its weaker opponents. With a new boss at the helm, it is highly doubtful that this will be the case against Hong Kong in the first competitive match for boss Marc Wilmots who is keen to start the World Cup qualifiers with a win.

Marc Wilmots, the former Belgium manager replaced Carlos Queiroz in June. The Portuguese left after a disappointing AFC Asian Cup in the UAE. They unexpectedly lost 3-0 to Japan in the semi-finals in a tournament many had tipped them to win. For Wilmots, this match will be ideal as he is facing a not-so-strong opposition in Hong Kong. Wilmots will not be satisfied with a close win wither as he has already made his views known about the style he wants his team play. His emphasis is not only on attacking football but also playing a modern passing game, something his predecessor did with caution.

Iran players react after losing to Portugal at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia. Photo: EPA

Team Melli has one major absentee in Mehdi Taremi, their top scorer. Taremi suffered a knock in a league match in Portugual with his club Rio Ave that prevented him from training and taking part in this opener. The former Al Gharafa and Persepolis striker has been in top form in Portugal scoring a hat trick in a match while winning an incredible six penalties for his team early in the season.
Team Melli will hardly be shaken by Taremi’s absence, though, as Sardar Azmoun is enjoying his best season with Russian Champions Zenit St. Petersburg. Azmoun will spearhead Iran’s attack against Hong Kong.

Mixu Paatelainen’s Hong Kong side will have their work cut out against a team ranked 23rd in the world, 116 places above them.

At 18, Sayyadmanesh is the youngest of Iranian players who will face Hong Kong. Team Melli has a mix of experience and youth in a squad that includes 100-plus cap Ehsan Hajsafi.

Not even Hajsafi was around when the teams last met in 1988, but the result might end the same. Iran has won four of the five meetings between the teams, and have a 100 per cent record over Hong Kong in competitive games.


Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Rashid Mazaheri (Tractor)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (Al-Shahania SC), Majid Hosseini (Trabzonspor), Milad Mohammadi (Gent), Vouria Ghafouri (Esteghlal), Mohammadhossein Kananizadegan (Persepolis), Siavash Yazdani (Esteghlal), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al-Arabi), Mohammad Naderi (Persepolis)

Midfielders: Omid Ebrahimi (Al Ahli, Qatar), Masoud Shojaei (Tractor), Ahmad Nourollahi (Persepolis), Ali Karimi (Esteghlal), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Ehsan Hai Safi (Tractor)

Strikers: Ashkan Dejagah (Tractor), Sardar Azmoun (Zenit), Karim Ansarifard (Al-Sailiya), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Allahyar Sayyadmanesh (Fenerbahce), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton)

Mehdi Taremi’s hat trick spells doom for Syria

Team Melli started a new era under coach Marc Wilmots with an empathetic 5-0 win against the tough Syrian National team in Azadi Stadium on Thursday.

In a day full of positives, Mehdi Taremi scored a stunning hat trick including a goal with a reverse scissors kick each side of Alireza Jahanbakhsh goal and debutant Allahyar Sayyadmanesh . It seems that the absent of the top Iranian forward of the season, Sardar Azmoun , Saman Ghoddos and Ashkan Dejagah was not much of a concern for Team Melli.

Jahanbakhsh scored the opener with a clever slotted ball finish, while the teenager made his debut minutes earlier scored the fifth goal to seal the match and mark a memorable day for Team Melli.

Not many teams in the world can claim a 5 goal margin win against Syria, a team with physical strength and mental toughness that has been passed on for generations.

Despite having most of the ball possession, Team Melli did not really threaten Ahmad Madania in the Syrian goal. It took a cleaver steal from Alireza Jahanbaksh, who had a season to forget in the English Premiere league, right inside the Syrian box and a clever shimmy followed by an accurate ball to the far end of Madania for Team Melli to strike on the half hour.

7 minutes after Jahanbakhsh’s goal it was the turn of Mehdi Taremi to start recording a historic match for himself, a match that he will cherish for a long time. The opener for Taremi was the result of a clever back heel pass by Ansarifard slicing open the tough Syrian defence for Taremi to receive the pass, take his time to round the keeper and slot the ball in.

The first half finished with a 2 goals lead for Team Melli. At no time in the half was there any indication that this will be an easy win for Team Melli as the physically strong and tough tackling Syrians gave little breathing space for the host.

The tough tackling had its first casualty, though in Majid Hosseini who was tackled hard and fell on the ground with a suspected dislocated shoulder in the second half. Kanani-Zadegan took Hosseini’s place in the central of defense.

Mehdi Taremi was on the roll as he scored his second in a spectacular fashion. The type of goals the fans love to watch and the TV to broadcast over and over again. His overhead scissors kick wrong footed the Syrian keeper whose desperate attempt failed to stop the ball hitting the net. The Al Gharafa forward scored his second and Iran’s third goal.

From this moment, it became clear that the Syrians were deflated. 3-0 was a big margin for such a proud and never says die team. They have never been beaten by an Iranian team with a 3 goals margin and although they have not given up per se, there were signs of gaps developing in their midfield and defense while the star forward Omar Al Somah had very little support up front.  The Syrian defensive cover work seemed crack sometimes too easily.

Team Melli took full advantage of that and Taremi, once again was on the score sheet. His third was scored with a nice header from an acute angle. The fully stretched Madania managed to touch the ball but it had too much pace and Taremi completed his hat trick. Iran 4 Syria 0

And the icing on the cake was a perfect introduction of young Esteghlal forward, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh. On the 79th minute Ansarifard was withdrawn to be replaced by Sayyadmanesh who has yet to complete his 18th birthday to make his debut.

Two minutes later, a clever through ball and perfectly timed run by the debutant, created a one to one situation with Syrian keeper. Allahyar though, seemed to get his bearing all wrong and mildly shot wild of the advancing keeper.

However, just before the end of regulation time, a corner by Hajsafy was met by towering the Sayyadmanesh who jumped and headed powerfully into the net. A beautiful goal indeed and a perfect curtain raiser for one of the future stars of Iranian football.

All in all, it was a 10 out of 10 performance by Team Melli and a perfect start fot the Belgian Marc Wilmots. Apart from the introduction of Sayyadmanesh this team was the legacy of Carlos Queiroz. However, there is a marked change in the philosophy between the former Team Melli coach who was an avid believer in tight defenses and the philosophy of the new regime as clearly stated by Wilmots in his pre-match press conference.

Wilmots team will be playing offensive football but not forgetting the delicate balance between going on all-out attack and reasonable strong defense.

One thing that Queiroz has created in this team though and has to be credited for it, is creation of a strong team with plenty of options in every position. It will Make Marc Wilmots job that much easier.

FIFA Demands Explanation Over Ousted Iranian Footballers

FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), has demanded the Islamic Republic to provide further information over its decision to drop two footballers from Iran’s national team, after they played for their Greek side against an Israeli team.

Captain of Iran’s National Football team, Masoud Shojaei and his teammate, Ehsan Hajsafi played for full ninety minutes in their Greek team, Panionios home match in Athens against the Israeli club, Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday, August 3.

The midfielders were not present at the away match in Israel.

Nevertheless, Iran’s Football federation last week strongly condemned their participation in the home leg of the matches.

Meanwhile, conservatives in Iran bombarded the pair with threats.

“Hajsafi and Shojaei’s move in no way constitutes endorsement and it will certainly be addressed according to regulations and the law,” said Director of Security at Iran’s Sports Ministry, Mohammad Javad Ababaf, adding, “Most probably the pair are going to lose their spots in the national squad. Nevertheless, we should wait for officials’ final verdict.”

Then, on Thursday, August 10, Ministry of Sports’ deputy, Mohammad Reza Davarzani put the final nail in the coffin, declaring, “Both footballers have lost their spot on Iranian National Team… they crossed Iran’s red line”.

Previously it was announced that the final verdict will be issued after a person to person interview with Shojaei and Hajsafi.

FIFA’s statutes ban political interference in its affiliated national associations, which can be suspended if the rule is breached.

Argentina's Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran's Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014

Argentina’s Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran’s Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014

“We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation,” said a FIFA spokesperson in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We have no further comment for the time being.”

If a country’s FA is suspended, it means both the national team and its clubs are barred from international competition.

Iran has already qualified for next year’s World Cup, making it an especially delicate matter for FIFA.

FIFA statutes state that “each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties”.

However, positive reactions to the pair’s move on social media were quite significant. In most comments, Shojaei and Hajsafi were praised for their courageous “professionalism” and respect for sports international regulations.

There were also comments that branded the move as “an end to the regime’s injustice against Iranian athletes”.

Moreover, a twitter campaign labelled as #NoBan4Ourplayers has been launched by Iranians to defend Shojaei and Hajsafi’s “courageous move”, protest against their elimination from the national side and raise concerns over its consequences.

An internationally known former Iranian football star, Mehdi Mahdavi Kia wrote on his Instagram account, “The moments you made people of Iran joyous will never be forgotten. Let’s hope for the day that politics leaves sports behind and action replaces words”.

Now is not the time for silence!


The announcement of the ban of the two national team players led to widespread negative reactions. FIFA spokesman has requested an explanation about the incident and if the FFIRI is adhering to the principle of the independence of the federation from Iranian authorities. It apparent that FIFA requires a quick and clear response from the Mehdi Taj.

According to ISNA, after the Panionios Greek club was grouped with a Zionist regime in the European League playoffs, the club announced in a statement that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan HajSafy would not be used for the game in Tel Aviv, in respect to their beliefs. But the Greek club declared that the two Iranian players are needed in the return match due to the defeat in the away game and placed them in the starting lineup. Both the Iranian players came out to the pitch with wristbands in the shape of Iranian flag.

After that, the debate about the future of the two players intensified, until the Football Federation and the Ministry of Sports condemned the incident. They both announced that “soon a review their situation with the presence of the two players will be conducted”. In fact, the federation and the ministry of sport tried to enforce the statute of the football federation and, on the other hand, refused to take a hasty decision to make the situation worse.

A few days later, Ali Motahari, the vice chairman of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, condemned the presence of these two players against the Zionist regime, saying that Shojaei and Hajj Safi could apologize to the people and promise that such an affair would no longer be repeated to close this subject.

However and unexpectedly,  the relative calm situation that was prevailing was suddenly shattered with the interview that was given by the deputy minister of sports. “The two players have crossed the red line and hence are banned from playing with the national team.” Such types of statements have put Iranian football in a serious challenge and jeopardy.

The problem that could have been resolved by keeping it under discreet internal discussion,  was soon taken blown over and became a topic in world media and well outside our borders. Serious questions are being asked. Is the Iranian Football Federation Independent? Is there chronic government interference in football affairs in Iran? Is this ban of the two footballers consistent with football rules and regulations as sanctioned by FIFA? Does Iran want to be part of FIFA and play up to the rule or face sanctions like many other nations for such political interference?

Now that the national team has done the difficult part and qualified the World Cup and Persepolis is in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals with a good chance of winning the title, the repeat of history and the possibility of a football suspension can be very unpleasant affair. As of now in the football federation, from “Taj” to “Saket” and  the members of the board of directors of the FFIRI, know that FIFA is demanding an answer, however it is not clear what the federation and its officials are doing these days, maintaining absolute silence in this frenzy, and providing no explanations or answers. Neither to public opinion nor to the official football institutions!!

These days, an official statement from the officials of the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) may be that water required for the fire of those with hateful intentions for the national interests of Iran.

The football federation has done well by maintaining silence up to date, but anything more than that “silence” is not acceptable. Taj and his directors should take a position soon in fact, very soon. It should be announced that the Football Federation is an independent body and no football events have taken place without its decision and administration, and it will not allow it to be manipulated by those who have ill-intention and malice for the national interests of Iran