Tag: Marc Wilmots

“Wilmots Curse” Ban on recruitment of Foreign Coaches in Iran.

“Wilmots Curse” has struck Iranian football in an unprecedented way. The astronomical figure to be awarded for a sub-standard coach whose failure to win two crucial matches in FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers is threatening an early exit from the competition, has left an incurable scar in Iran’s football. The first immediate effect of that is the recent banning of new foreign recruits. The FFIRI had decided that a blanket ban will not only help preserve the flight of precious foreign currency but also minimize the inherint corruption in football.

The ban on recruiting foreign coaches and players was passed by the executive committee of the football federation FFIRI.

From next season, starting in a few week’s time, a blanket ban on recruiting foreign players and coaches is enforced for all clubs in the country

The following resolutions were approved by the executive board members in the meeting:

1- Approving the transfer ceiling of football players in the next season

2- Prohibition of employing foreign players and coaches for the next season in all clubs of the country due to the lack of foreign exchange resources and restrictions on foreign exchange transfers.

3- Extension of the contract of foreign players and coaches who have had contracts with clubs from previous seasons is unrestricted and upon the expiry of their contract, both sides can only renew or extend with the current club. Transfer to another club is prohibited

4 – All domestic players and coaches, without exception, who have a contract in Rials with their club must agree on a national currency (Rials or Tomans) in other options of the contract and nothing else.

5- Allocation of membership fees for Premier League football matches is mandatory in accordance with previous approvals.

6- Approval of regulations to determine the status of futsal players in compliance with legal requirements

7- Holding training courses conducted by internationally renowned trainers for trainers in the country in the form of webinars

8- Approving the performance and financial statements of the federation

9- Regarding the hosting of the 2027 Asian Cup, it was decided for periodical reports by the stakeholders on the progress of hosting requirements and capabilities.

FFIRI board and Minster of Sports summoned to the Majlis.

Finally, Mehdi Taj and his entourage board members of the Football Federation are to be challenged about the circumstances of the suspicious and highly controversial deal by the parliament.

Mehdi Taj, along with several members of FFIRI board of directors and several current and former directors, attended a questioning session in the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

According to ISNA, the purpose of FFIRI board of directors’ appearance in Majlis is to determine if there was wrongdoing, negligence or corruption behind the signing of the deal with Wilmots, especially since the federation has been claiming for many years under both Ali Kaffashian and Mehdi Taj that it is critically short of funds even to pay its basic obligation, like the employee’s salaries, National teams training camps and inability to arrange meaningful friendly games for Team Melli to prepare for the World Cup citing fund shortage. Yet, the same federation that has been constantly seeking handouts from the government in effect using blackmail tactics, signs a multi-million dollar contract with a coach who has lasted only six months with Ivory Coast before he was sacked!

The FFIRI had steadfastly refused to disclose the terms of the deal and the justifications until public pressure and the threat of law suite finally exposed this horrendous commitment by the bankrupt federation.


Mehdi Taj and Ebrahim Shakoori, along with the current board of directors are under investigation for signing the worst sporting contract in the history of Iran at all levels. A contract with Marc Wilmots which resulted in Iran’s Team Melli not only risking eliminations from the qualifiers with two consecutive defeats under the Belgian but also resulted in the coach of Team Melli leaving the country accusing his employer of several breaches of the contract, which was supported by FIFA’s committee with Iranian side ordered to pay some € 6.2 million in fines to the person who has put Team Melli on the brink of elimination from the World Cup !.

The Minister of Sports and Youth Masoud Soltanifar and his deputies are also summoned for the hearing. It is strongly believed that the influence of the Minister was telling in the conclusion of the contract. With FFIRI board constantly seeking handouts, it is believed that none dared to challenge the Ministry’s choice while Soltanmifar denies any wrongdoing and only introducing the coach by recommendation of Iran-Belgium Chambers of commerce.

The executives are expected to answer questions from members of the Parliament about the background and the termination of the contract with Wilmots. FFIRI has borrowed over € 2.2 million from the social security organization to pay Wilmot’s salary.

Many observers are skeptical about any progress of the proceeding as it is feared that the issue will be kept under wrap and no one will be prosecuted especially since the Ministry of Sports and Youth is involved in the case as defendants.

Wilmots contract verdict and the depth of tragedy in Iran’s football.

The contract of Marc Wilmots with the Iranian Football Federation FFIRI has caused a further 8,142,000 Euros in damages (about 216 billion Tomans), which is about 50 billion more than the entire budget of the Iranian National Olympic and Paralympic Committees!!

The astronomical and tragic waste of public money epitomizes the sheer mismanagement, corruption, and lack of oversight in Iran’s football.

Recently, however, FIFA announced its verdict in the dispute between Iran and Marc Wilmots and ordered the Iranian Football Federation to pay Euros 6,137,000 in compensation to this Belgian coach; In addition, the Iranians must pay an amount of about five thousand euros as a court fee to the ruling committee. A grand total of Euros 8,142,000 so far goes to Wilmots. FFIRI, had previously borrowed 2 million Euros from the Social Security Investment Company (Shasta) to pay Marc Wilmots’ wages of which compensation of 6,137, euros, and five thousand euros related to the proceedings for a total 8,142,000 euros. That is the total cost of the contract with the coach who has put Team Melli on the brink of elimination from the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Considering that the FFIRI has to pay its 2 million euro loan to Shasta in foreign currency and this figure has not been paid in full so far and it is not clear what the price of the euro will be when settling the debt, calculation of all the expenses that is due and libel by the Football Federation of Iran so far in today’s exchange rate, (including 26,500 Tomans to the Euro) it will be about 216 billion Tomans, which is equivalent to 13% of the total budget of Iran’s sports expenditure of this current year!!!

Of course, the price that Iranian sports must pay for the four national team games with Wilmots is about 50 billion tomans more than the total budget of the National Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which must prepare Iranian sports for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is the depth of the contract tragedy with a failure coach Wilmots.

Iran’s football and as we realize now the entire sports especially those who bring glory to the nation like wrestling, weightlifting, volleyball, basketball, and Martial Arts are held ransom by a group of incompetent and corrupt individuals marshaled by the government.

There is no end in sight either.

FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers may be held behind closed doors.

With COVID19 still prevalent, Team Melli is likely to play the rest of FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers behind closed doors.

After months of uncertainty following of the postponement of the qualifiers, the schedule for the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers in the Asian Zone was announced, and Iran will play four crucial matches in October and November this year. However, the venues have not yet been announced yet by the World Football Governing body and AFC, and it is unclear whether the games will be hosted by the home team as standard, and whether spectators will be allowed entry into the venues. There is a possibility that the rest of the qualifiers will be played in a third country behind closed doors.

This possibility of action by FIFA and AFC is due to the continuing outbreak of coronavirus in different countries of the world. Corona is currently on the rise in some countries, and experts predict that the spread of the disease will worsen in the fall, and health protocols need to be implemented more vigorously. In this regard, the head of the UEFA Medical Committee announced that all national games will be held in the fall without spectators and that fans will not be able to return to the stadiums at the moment.

Such ruling by the Europeans could also be implemented in Asia which would practically deny the Iranian fans from attending matches in Azadi.

 * Effect of behind closed door games on Team Melli Chances.

Is this ban complicating Team Melli’s chances of qualifying? Although FIFA will announce its decisions after consulting with local confederations, it is clear that some Asian countries are less prepared than the Europeans and developed countries in terms of health protocols. As a result, due to the Iranian Premier League games being played behind closed doors, the AFC may not allow Iran to host spectators in the fall, and the national team will be forced to face its rivals without the support of the fans. Iranian fans have been a hallmark of Team Melli’s success throughout the years.

The players and managers have bee counting of home advantage in their remaining games specifically against Bahrain and Iraq, the two contenders of this group.

Due to the fact that Team Melli has played three away games, the matched in Tehran without the presence of spectators will be slightly in favor of the rivals. Currently, Iran is in third place in its group due to poor results of the previous round and the loss against Bahrain and Iraq under former coach Marc Wilmots. Iram has 4 points less than its two group leaders, namely Iraq and Bahrain.

Accordingly, the schedule of the Iranian national football team’s return matches was announced as follows:

Iran – Hong Kong (Thursday, October 8)

Cambodia – Iran (Tuesday, October 13)

Iran – Bahrain (Thursday, November 12)

Iran – Iraq (Tuesday, November 17)

Mehdi Taj claims Wilmots was the Minister of Sport recommendation!

In a radio sports show yesterday, Mehdi Taj the former President of FFIRI, who is under severe scrutiny and possible criminal charges on the subject of the contract with Marc Wilmots, claimed that the Belgian Coach appointment to Team Melli was based on the recommendations given by the Ministry of Sport!

According to Mehr News Agency, the Ministry of Sports issued an official statement refuting the former FFIRI president.

 “about some issues raised in the radio interview, Mr. Mehdi Taj, former President of the Football Federation, The ministry finds it necessary to explain to the public the role of the Minister of Sports and Youth in regards to Mr. Wilmots or any coach. The Minister did not introduce (…) the coach to the Football Federation, as Mr. Taj claimed in an interview Friday night. The Minister only forwarded a letter originated from the “Cultural Association of Iran and the Netherlands” in which three veteran foreign coaches were identified and this referral has been submitted to the Football Federation for review. This is a common practice for some individuals, institutions, or organizations to make suggestions or referrals to the Ministry of Sports and Youth, which in turn we direct to the federation concern” The ministry spokesperson said in the statement.

To justify further, the Ministry spoke person added: “While anyone with the slightest familiarity with correspondence and administrative literature knows that the term “review” does not mean an order of action, but the final word on the matter and decision-making is left to that federation, which of course means choosing and concluding a contract with individuals team coaches. It is the full responsibility of the football federations, to complete the necessary steps and the Ministry of Sports and Youth has not interfered in the selection of coaches.”

There is no doubt that the Ministry on the behest of the government has been running the football federation. Although technically speaking, the spokesperson is correct, as the recommendation is not an order but if this recommendation comes from your sole financier and backer, like the case in Iran, then the recommendation consciously and knowingly becomes an order.

Many believe that Carlos Queiroz would have still been the coach of Team Melli if it wasn’t to the objections and interferences of this same Minister of Youth and Sports, Soltanifar.

Marc Wilmots appointment turned out to be a serious technical and administrative disaster for Team Melli and the football federation. After two consecutive relatively smooth qualifications to the FIFA World Cup under the guidance of Queiroz, Iran’s Team Melli under Wilmots is risking elimination this time.

Skocic aiming to get Iran back on track 

Dragan Skocic head coach of IR Iran attends his first press conference in Tehran
© imago images
  • Disappointing start for Iran in Qatar 2022 qualifiers
  • Dragan Skocic appointed new coach of Team Melli
  • Croatian spoke with FIFA.com about his goals


A look at Skocic’s resume reveals that this is his first time in charge of a national team, the 51-year-old having spent all of his coaching career at clubs in Croatia and the Gulf, such as Al Araby in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr. Despite his lack of national team experience, he is well aware of the task awaiting ahead.

“In contrast to a club, working with a national team allows you to choose from a large pool of players to instil your philosophy, although the downside is that you always have limited time to implement your ideas.”

Staying in the race

IR Iran suffered two defeats – against Iraq and Bahrain – in their opening four games in the AFC’s second qualifying round for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Given the quality of their squad, the team’s performance was not considered good enough. So how does the new incumbent plan to get them back on track?

“We’ll shortly be carrying out a detailed analysis of our team and those of our opponents as well. We’ll also be looking into new players who might join the squad. I have a clear idea of what’s required to improve our performances.”

Those two defeats have Team Melli currently occupying third place in Group C, a position that would not take them into the final qualifying round. Asked about the very real danger of early elimination, Skocic says: “Our current position is bad, but we’re not yet despairing. Three of our remaining four games will be at home, where we’ll have massive support from our fans. I also believe we have a quality group of players, which is why I’m optimistic.”

Help from the schedule

Skocic’s side do indeed have grounds for optimism. Their next two fixtures will be against Hong Kong and Cambodia, who on paper at least, should be beatable. They will then host current group frontrunners Bahrain and Iraq, which should give them a shot at claiming one of the group’s two qualifying spots in the next round. “We have to be professional and respect all the teams, including Cambodia and Hong Kong.”

IR Iran have reached the World Cup on five occasions. After back-to-back appearances in 2014 and 2018, the aim now is to secure a third consecutive participation for the first time.

“We’ve promised the people of Iran that we’ll go back to the World Cup, and we’ll do our utmost to fulfil that promise.”

IR Iran’s remaining Group C qualifiers:

🏠 IR Iran – Hong Kong
✈ Cambodia – IR Iran
🏠 IR Iran – Bahrain
🏠 IR Iran – Iraq

AFC proposing new dates for Iran World Cup qualifying games.

Qatar’s Al-Sharq newspaper reported today that the AFC is evaluating alternative dates for the Asian Teams competition backlog since March 2020. According to the newspaper, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has made two proposals for the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers and the AFC Asian Cup 2023, which are scheduled to take place on October 8th and 16th).

“The AFC is expected to present these two proposals to the local federations to identify their views and opinions, but in the end, it all depends on the coronavirus situation in the countries concerned ” Al-Sharq reported.

Team Melli matches against Cambodia and Hong Kong were postponed.

Iran’s Team is currently in third place in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers, which is also the qualifying round for the 2023 Asian Cup, after Iraq and Bahrain with 6 points. Meanwhile, there has been a change in the coaching staff with the Croat Dragan Skocic taking over after the disappointing Belgian Marc Wilmots left the job.

Dragan Skočić, has yet to lead Team Melli in any match, in fact, he has not managed to get the team together due to the restrictions and lockdown after the COVID-19 outbreak. All sporting activities are suspended in Iran at the present.

FFIRI files a countersuit against Marc Wilmots.

Mehr news agency reports that the Iranian Football Federation FFIRI, has filed a countersuit against the lawsuit by Marc Wilmots claiming over a million dollars.  The lawyer assigned by the FFIRI is the same Swiss lawyer who failed in his most recent case while representing the TractorSazi Tabriz football club.

In that case, an infamous Irish player by the name of Anthony Stokes has won a libel case worth US$ 400,000 that Tractorsazi has to pay the Irishman plus 5% interest.

The Former Republic of Ireland international Anthony Stokes has reportedly been arrested by armed police at London’s Gatwick Airport due to an outstanding warrant for his arrest last week.

Stokes arrived at the airport on a plane from Dubai, where he had been on a short break, after refusing to return back to his current employer Persepolis!

In Wilmots vs FFIRI, the Belgian coach is claiming several million euros in back payment plus interest. It is quite likely that Wilmots will win the case and Iranian football will have to pay yet another hefty sum to outsiders due to their own utter incompetence and mismanagement of the federation.

The next in line to pay similar fines are Persepolis and Esteghlal who have several open cases against them in Zurich all for breach of contract and non-payment of dues.

The irony is that all such funds have to come from the public coffers as these clubs are practically bankrupt and wholly dependent on the ministry of Sports budget.



Wilmots” We were not been paid for 5 months!”

Former Team Melli coach, Marc Wilmots confirmed that he was not paid for 5 months by FFIRI while he was still working for the football federation.

Wilmots mistakenly thought that the country was running out of money and that is the reason he left Iran. He did not mention anything about the really poor results and the two defeats against Bahrain and Iran.

Of course, Wilmots had every right to break his contract if he was not paid and in fact, he should be applauded for waiting that long in the job. What is surprising is how will the FFIRI which is reportedly bankrupt, is going to pay the new coach Dragan Skocic?? Will the poor guy suffer the same as Wilmots and Queiroz before him?

For what its worth, here is what Wilmots said about his Iranian experience.

Marc Wilmots is currently in Slovenia watching his two sons play in the league. In an interview with a Slovanian website, Wilmots was asked about his coaching job and his plans for the future.

“I have been active as a player and coach in Europe for 30 years. In 2017, I received an offer from Africa. I ended up as the head coach of Côte d’Ivoire national team, which for me is the B team of France. The memories of that assignment are beautiful, but after the defeat in Morocco, we were eliminated from the World Cup and our paths broke.”

“An offer came from Iran last year. I thought of it as a great project for the next three years until the next World Cup. But at the end of last year, we broke up. Things did not go right as we have not been paid for five months. Besides me, there are four other coaches who came with me. I’m sorry. Iran has a huge number of players who are physically strong and have advanced football skills. Their National football Center is one of the most modern and the finest in the World.  The offer did not interest me in the beginning, but thinking about Carlos Queiroz working there for eight years, I decided it is worth a go. I thought that means that you can work long term and establish a system.”

“When I started, The Iranian national team was more defensive-minded and I started to introduce more offensive tactics. The start was great. We beat Syria 5-0 in a friendly, then played South Korea and drew 1-1, we beat Cambodia 14-0 in the World Cup qualifiers. With more sanctions, political disputes and isolation of Iran by the US, the atmosphere in the country was getting worse and worse, and above all, it was running out of funds.”

“Now I have time. There are offers, but I have time to decide. I am Quite calm, no hassle. I want to study the offers before deciding the best offer. out of funds. It will be clear in the next three months. I don’t care if I work at a club or a national team.”

Details of Skocic Press Conference

Skocic’s Press conference began with a short statement.

“I want to talk about the future plans of the national team, the preparation and provide you with some details.”

 * Open arms to all clubs

 “Serving as the head coach of the Iranian national team is a great honor. I think this is the first time that a foreign coach has been appointed after being in the country for five years, and this makes the burden quite heavy on me. If I want to discuss the situation of the team, I must say first that in the World Cup qualifying games, maybe the team was not on the right track. I am here to strive for success with all my positive energy and knowledge and experience. I like to talk about my goals clearly and transparently. I would like to think that we want to get closer to our goals with each game and inject positive energy into the team to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. “

“I shall listen to club coaches’ suggestions and they have any issues, I’m ready to hear them 24/7 ” Skocic said.

  • Legionnaires evaluation

“One of the benefits of my appointment is that I am already familiar with Iranian football. I have been in club football for five years and understand the mentality of Iranian players and football systems. This is definitely a positive step forward in the team’s goals. While I am here at your service, I have already started my work for the team and finished the first stage. The first stage was the analysis of the national team matches in recent months. From watching the domestic players’ to checking out the league and other competitions, I have done a lot of work on that. We have extracted all the information, advantages and disadvantages of national team performances in previous games. Now it is time to start working on Legionnaires players playing at international clubs. We should be able to monitor their performance at later stages.”

* Good news or bad for players?

“From now on, I will send a message to all players that every player has an equal chance of being selected in Team Melli, and the selection is highly dependent on their form and level of preparation,

” Over the next five days, our plan is to focus on the Legionnaires. Given the scattering of the leagues that the Iranians are in, it is not possible for me to review all the games in this short period of time, but all efforts will be put into a meeting and checking on as many Legionnaires as we can. Those whom we can not meet, we shall have face to face discussions through video call and conferencing.

I’ll share with them my plans and talk to them about the matches. In the short term, given the games that the team has to play, do not expect a big change in the team lineup, however, you will see me inject ideas, my thoughts, and personality into the squad. We will stick to the style they have used to but gradually develop and select the ideal model and organize the team and then we will see a strong and capable national team.

* Player’s agents and lobbies

About ensuring that the agents and lobbyists around him do not interfere with the team selection while pursuing their own agendas? Skocic said “I didn’t expect this question. I worked in two universities and one academy. I won four Cups in Croatia and Slovenia. I led Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr and Iran’s Foolad in the AFC Champions League but I only talked about what I had experienced in Iran in these five years. Iranian football players’ agents are quite bad news. Let me be clear. If the agents and representatives were to take me up north and down south of Iran with various clubs and eventually get me to the national team job, I must say they did a bad job. If I walk in a park, I won’t put my foot on a flower to make my path easier. I’m an honest person and I don’t get involved in these games. My football is based on passion, interest, experience, and awareness.

* Training Facilities

“It was a surprise when I inspected the training facilities of the national camp. I have to say that there are really good pieces of equipment which are at the highest international standards. It assures me that the hardware and the facilities will give us the tools needed to achieve our goals.”

*Azerbaijan League!

“Is he interested in the Iranian legionnaires in leagues like Azerbaijan?” Skocic response was “As I said, I deal with all Iranian players abroad professionally. It doesn’t matter which league they play in. They are certainly under our radar. Certainly, I have the courage to give everyone who deserves a call out a chance to wear Team Melli jersey.

* FFIRI financial distress

Asked about his views on the financial difficulties and cash flow problem in FFIRI, he said “I am fully aware of the current situation as a result of the sanctions. When I was with Sanat Naft. in my attempt to recruit foreign players, I negotiated with a number of them but most were hesitant to work in Iran due to the bad payment reputation.”

“My other challenge there, of course, was not receiving my wages and entitlements for four months. I didn’t want to get paid before the players got their money. Eventually they promised to pay me two days after the players were paid. It didn’t happen and the situation got worse because I had to stick to my contract and the players had to get their money and I was upset about it.”

* Black List! It is all rumors”

Skocic reaction to a question about some Team Melli players’ negative remarks on his selection, some criticized the choice and if there is a blacklist with these players’ names, The Croat said “ That’s an interesting question. Perhaps it should not have been asked. Rest assured, with my 51 years of age and vast experience I have to say I’m a coach who no one can buy.  I’m honest and the blacklist you are talking about is all rumors. Players are invited based on merits. “:

* Leaving Sanat Naft post

“When I left Sanat Naft Abadan coaching job, Iran national team was not my destination”. Does this mean that he has only negotiated with the officials of the national team for 48 hours before the appointment? He said: “Maybe there was talk between the officials in Sanat Naft and the  Federation, but my motivation for quitting Sanat Naft was not to join Team Melli.”

About whether appointment to Team Melli, was it due to a close relationship with one of the sports dignitaries ?”,  “What I know is that the Football Federation selected me as head coach,” he said. Asked whether he had come to an agreement with Baharvand or someone else, Skocic said: “I definitely negotiated with Mr. Baharvand.” I think it’s very logical”

* A shy way of introducing the New Head Coach

Dragan Skocic’s introduction to the Iranian media and his first press conference took place in strange unfamiliar circumstances.

Unlike common practice, the Croat coach of Team Melli was not accompanied by any official of the Football Federation. In fact, apart from the interpreter, there was no official from FFIRI present in the conference hall at all. More importantly, the typical signing ceremony that is afforded to each of the Team Melli coaches and the celebration associated with such an event was conspicuously absent with Dragan Skocic. The fifth Croatian coach of the Iranian national football team, whose appointment has created much debate, most of it that seemed to be on the negative side, continually kept expressing his gratitude for the confidence afforded to him during his interview. In response to a question about the support of the federation, Skocic said: “What more support I need better than the appointment itself !”

Skocic who was not in the initial candidates’ list and was only included less than 48 hours before the actual appointment, unlike any previous head coaches was not provided a signing ceremony. That has raised even more concern and more doubt about the role of the FFIRI in his selection and even if he was in fact appointed by the football federation itself.

Both Carlos Queiroz and Marc Wilmots were introduced to the public and the media in dignified ceremonies attended by all the FFIRI dignitaries headed by presidents, In Queiroz’s case, Ali Kaffashian opted to hold the ceremony in the office of Ali Saeedloo (then head of the Physical Education Organization). The same process was repeated for Marc Wilmots as Queiroz’s successor. After months of traveling to European countries, Mehdi Taj was able to reach an agreement with the Belgian coach and arrange a introductory presentation with all the usual fanfare for him.

In both cases, there was no doubt that the Presidents took contentment and credit for signing the two foreign coaches and were well pleased by their achievements as both Kafashian and Mehdi Taj left no chance for anyone to question who was in charge and who was making decisions.

The board of directors of FFIRI, appointed Haidar Baharvand as interim President and it came at a critical time for Team Melli. Although federation officials have repeatedly mentioned that the successor to Wilmots will be a local coach,  Dragan Skocic was suddenly selected at an unusual meeting at the home of a famous sports personality! The process of his election was met with a lot of criticism from experts and media. Yet, the events after his appointment further feed the speculations.