Tag: Sepahan Esfahan

Hossein Faraki seems to be the lead candidate for Team Melli job.

With the withdrawal of Amir Ghalenoei and Mehdi Tarter, the exclusion of Yahya Golmohammadi from the initial list, and the outright rejection of the offer to coach Team Melli by Ali Daei, Hossein Faraki seems to be the leading candidate for the job.

Notwithstanding the two other candidates (Majidi & Nekounam) both of whom have discipline and stability issues in addition to lack of proper international experience required for the job, Faraki seems to tick all the boxes of FFIRI and most importantly to the authorities, being politically acceptable and loyal.

 In an interview with ISNA, Hossein Faraki acknowledged that his name was amongst several for the post of Team Melli head coach and said ” I was offered the chance for the job in a call made by FFIRI leadership. They sent me an invitation and asked me for a roadmap and plan for participating in the AFC Asian Cup 2023. Of course, there are other options and they specified a deadline for me to respond.”

He continued: “Anyway, it is the national team and it is where I played for many years and had coaching experience too. In the last one or two years, I have had proposals from several clubs, which I have not yet decided on. One of the reasons was the Corona issue, and after that, I realized that the place I want to go to, must have the right conditions and atmosphere to conduct my job. Maybe some clubs have problems and lack facilities, and I also wanted to be in a place where the conditions are available so that I can have an impact. I would like to do something for the national team if I can,”

The former coach of the national team added: “If I feel that something can be done, I will think about it. Many people would love to see me take the post and would love for this to happen to me and for me to get what I deserve. There are different opinions in this regard. Some agree and some disagree, but everyone is entitled to his opinions are it should be respected “

” So far I have not sent my program but I am in the process and will soon submit it to the federation. It will be sent by tomorrow and whatever the outcome will be, it will happen.”

“I don’t like to talk about speculation,” Farraki said about the selection of an Iranian or foreign coach for Team Melli. “Anyway, the decision maker is the Football Federation. Many of our coaches have potential and the desire of every coach is to lead the national team. We also need to motivate the Iranian coach. Foreign coaches have their own values, but under the current circumstances, it is better to give the Iranians the opportunity.

Faraki was born in Tehran on 22nd March 1957 and started his playing career with PAS Tehran from 1976 to 1992), He played for Team Melli  (22 caps/11 goals for Iran), and his coaching career included Esteghlal Tehran, Sepahan Isfahan, Persepolis Tehran

Hossein Faraki played for Team Melli in the first Iranian qualification for the World Cup in 1978. He also won third place in the AFC Asian Cup 1980 in Kuwait with the national team. Faraki served as assistant coach to Branko Ivankovic for three years. Faraki also has the experience of being the head coach of Iran’s Omid national team in 2004. He led Foolad Khuzestan to the League Title in 2012-2013. He also led the Sepahan Isfahan team to the title in 2013-2014, so within 2 years, he has led two different clubs to the championship titles in the Iran Premier Football League.

22 Domestic League players invited to Team Melli camp.

Dragan Skocic announced the list of 22 players playing in the domestic League to attend the national team camp.

The 22 players will be in Team Melli’s mini-camp for five days to August 30th. With the announcement of the final list of the team for the games against Syria and Iraq in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers, most of the players on this list will be eliminated. Seven players from Esteghlal, five players from Persepolis, and Sepahan, three players from Gol Gohar, one player from Traktorsazi and  Foolad are forming the squad invited, which will realistically probably end up with not more than three of the original squad.

Zubair Niknafs, Mohammad Karimi, Mehdi Abdi, Saleh Hardani, Mohammad Hossein Moradmand, Ahmad Zandeh Rouh, Yasin Salmani are the players who will participate in the national team camp for the first time.

Individuals such as Arsalan Motahari, Shahriyar Moghanloo, Farshid Ismaili, Saeed Aghaei, Seyed Hossein Hosseini, Farshad Ahmadzadeh, Siavash Yazdani, had been invited to the national team for one or two camps in recent years. Also, one of the interesting points in this list is the return of Seyed Hossein Hosseini, who has replaced Rashid Mazaheri. Hosseini had a steady presence in the national camps for a while, but with a relative performance decline in the 19th and early 20th leagues, he was completely eliminated from the national team, but now he has taken the place of his rival in Esteghlal.

Esteghlal: (7) Hossein Hosseini, Aref Aghasi, Mohammad Hossein Moradmand, Farshid Ismaili, Amir Arsalan Motahhari, Zubair Nikonfas and Siavash Yazdani

Persepolis: (5) Saeed Aghaei, Vahid Amiri, Mehdi Torabi, Mehdi Abdi, and Milad Sarlak.

Sepahan Esfahan: (5) Omid Nourafkan, Yasin Salmani, Shahriyar Moghanloo,, Farshad Ahmadzadeh and Mohammad Karimi

Golgohar Sirjan: (3) Mehdi Tikdari, Armin Sohrabian, Ahmad Zenderooh.

TractorSazi: (1) Mohammad Reza Akhbari

Foolad Khuzestan: (1) Saleh Hardani

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.

Payam Niazmand to Portuguese club Portimonense.

Seyed Payam Niazmand, 26-year-old goalkeeper, who is playing for Sepahan Esfahan will join the Portuguese club Portimonense until June 2024, with a 10 million euros termination clause.

In Portugal, several clubs competed for the signature of Team Melli goalkeeper, with some notable foreign teams in the race, however, Payam Niazmand opted for the Algarve team, which has managed to secure his signature.

The Iranian international who played the AFC Asian Cup in 2019, represented the teams of Paykan FC and Sepahan, before arriving at Portimonense.

The club issued a statement confirming the arrival of Niazmand with a welcome message that said “the administration of Portimonense Futebol SAD, thanks Payam Niazmand for having faith in the project that was presented to him and wishes him the greatest personal and sporting successes in defending the alvinegra goal.”

Niazmand joins Ali Alipour in Portimonense.

Coronavirus threatens all Asian football activities!

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Asian soccer leaders on Wednesday postponed two key meetings because of the spread of the Coronavirus.

The Asian Football Confederation was due to hold an executive committee meeting in Bahrain on March 14 ahead of a congress of member nations on April 16 in Kuala Lumpur. The AFC told The Associated Press that both gatherings had been postponed, with no new dates for the meetings given.

Governments have announced more than 20 cases of the virus in both Malaysia and Bahrain.

The virus has already impacted soccer matches on the continent with Asian Champions League games involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG postponed to April-May.

All group and playoff matches in the east zone of the AFC Cup have been delayed until April 7.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in West Asia with many countries suspending flight to and from Iran while most have closed the borders. Several league matches were held with spectators while many clubs advocate the postponement of the league until the situation stabilizes and the threat of the virus is minimized.

Sepahan Esfahan, Esteghlal, Persepolis and Shar Khodro are representing Iran in this season’s AFC Champions League.

Team Melli is scheduled to meet Hong Kong in Azadi Stadium on 26th March in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Asian Zone qualifiers.

FFIRI offenses triggers AFC and FIFA actions.

Iran’s Football Federation has been given serious warnings from the two governing bodies.

The disciplinary committee of the AFC has found FFIRI guilty of serious violations and slapped it with a heavy fine of US$130,000. The breach of the Law which amount to cheating in issuing the Professional License to Iranian clubs despite the fact that those clubs did not meet the standards and the bylaws of professional football clubs as specified by AFC and FIFA.

FFIRI has renewed the licenses of Esteghlal, Persepolis, Shahr Khodro and Sepahan Esfahan to enable them to compete in this season’s AFC Champions League, however, those clubs have not met all the requirements. FFIRI failed to apply the law and issued Professional Licences knowingly that there were many areas of shortfall and violations of the international charter of professional clubs.

The fine is suspended for two years by the AFC, however, a repeat of such breach of the law will mean that FFIRI has to pay the full amount in addition to another punitive measure which normally means expulsion of the club from Asian Competitions.

While AFC has been firm against FFIRI, FIFA was in no mood either with its warning to the Iranians that the bylaws of its football federation are in violation of the international standards set by FIFA and no election will be recognized until an amendment to the laws is incorporated.

In a letter to FFIRI, the International Football Federation, while expressing objections to the FFIRI’s statute, called for the postponement of the election of its President.  The election of FFIRI president, vice-Presidents, and executive board members, was supposed to be held on March 5,  The International Football Federation, which has long been examining the status of the Iranian Federation, has emphasized in its letter that the Statute of the Iranian Football Federation has not been approved and should be amended. By sending this letter to the Iranian Football Federation, the March 6 election will be canceled and postponed to another time.

Despite the so-called independence of the FFIRI in Iran, the fact remains that the Government through the ministry of Youth and Sports is the de-facto controlling authority of all sports in Iran particularly football. From appointing of Chairmen to CEO’s and selecting the Coaches of Team Melli, The government has ensured a tight and full control of the sports.

Meanwhile, many observers believe that FFIRI election hardly qualifies to be called that as it is all selection and appointment cleverly disguised as free elections.

Mehdi Taj has resigned his post as President of FFIRI due to ill health.

The Saga of Team Melli Head Coach.

The saga of Team Melli head coach is over by the eventual appointment of an outsider for the hot seat. The Croatian, Dragan Skocic with a thin CV way below the last coach who floundered badly, namely Marc Wilmots, was deemed to be the right man for taking Iran to the third consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance.

The whole saga was filled with politics, lobbying, drama, deceits, theatrics, and unfulfilled promises. While the FFIRI was unwilling to repeat the experience of Marc Wilmots in the sense that they had difficulty paying him and his crew on time and the fact that FFIRI is facing financial calamity with expenditures far exceeding revenues. With that in mind, FFIRI opted to go for the cheaper and easier option of appointing a local coach. That said, a foreign coach was never discounted.

The Candidates

From the corridors of FFIRI, there were 5 names on the list of Team Melli coaching candidates. Ali Daei, Amir Ghalenoei, Yahya Golmohammadi, Hossein Faraki and Alireza Mansourian. Two other candidates, Majid Jalali and Vahid Hashemian were also considered but soon relegated to lower ranks.

As always, Ali Daei was the top of the list. He was out of work and available immediately. However, Daei comes with a lot of heavy baggage. He is a strong character and outspoken. He does not tolerate incompetence and poor management and will speak his mind out loud no matter who is in charge or how strong he is. Simply, no one can fool around with Daei and for an entity such as FFIRI and the way it is being run, this is precarious. The hierarchy demands strict allegiance, loyalty, and conformity without too many questions. Simply, this administration could not handle Daei.

 Amir Ghalenoei was the obvious choice and the one with most technical points. His achievement in coaching in Iran is immaculate. The man is a winner, not by opinion or belief but by facts and figures. It made the best sense for him to lead Team Melli.  Nevertheless, Ghalenoei is massively occupied with a battle to win his 6th championship title and his club, with a strong lobby and influence in Tehran, was vehemently refusing to release him at this stage. Not only Ghalenoei is popular with the players and the fans and has a strong challenge for the league title, but he is also so quite determined to make a great run in the AFC League Champions which has so far eluded him.

Yahya Golmohammadi’s fate was known early as Persepolis managed to grab him early before the battle intensified.

The other two, Faraki and Mansourian were always considered outsiders despite both having previous coaching experience, while Hashemian was considered far too inexperienced and partially blamed for the defeats of Team Melli against Bahrain and Iraq. Jalali never had much clout or support in Seoul street.

As far as the Foreign candidate goes, the one and the only Branko Ivankovic was on the top. The ex-Team Melli coach was even considered for the job while Carlos Queiroz was in charge. Ivankovic is quite popular in Iran and accepted by both the fans and the authorities as a decent person and technically gifted leader. He would be the ideal candidate to lead Team Melli. However, the maltreatment of Persepolis management and their false promises to sort out their contractual obligation was the biggest factor for Ivankovic to turn down the offer despite him giving the Iranians the chance to display goodwill by sorting the pack pay of his Persepolis days.

Failure of Persepolis to pay his unpaid dues was the final straw, leaving the Croat no choice but to turn down the lucrative Tea Melli job.

The Italian Di Biasi popped out of nowhere in the news for a few days and despite the Iranian side denying any negotiation, the ex -Albania National team coach did not agree terms with the Iranian side.

Infantino presenting Soltanifar a FIFA pendant

The Battle between FFIRI and Ministry of Sports

While FFIRI, particularly its President was going through the process of Team Melli coach selection with those 5 local candidates in mind, the Ministry had its own plan. A Ministry official not so long ago stated that the future coach will be a foreigner while not totally dismissing a local coach appointment. This non-official point of view was not in itself of any significance, but its importance would be meaningful when the appointment was finalized.

A foreign coach was indeed appointed which signified who is taking the decision on Iranian football affairs. Major decisions relating to all activities of football are outside the control of the FFIRI, its President, the secretary-general, the Technical Committee or the Disciplinary committees. The FFIRI personnel are all pawns and do the routine trivial works were their decisions and outcomes have no effect on politics or major effect on public opinion.

The De Facto policymaker of Iran’s sports including football is Minister of Youth and Sports, Masoud Soltanifar, who has the final say in what is deemed important and issues vital rulings. If anyone, including the elected President of Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran FFIRI, opposes policies or rulings, he can be dealt with one way or another.

Dragan Skocic was an outsider and the easiest choice. The Croat would have seen this as a big career challenge and very much significant improvement in his CV while he was fed up with his employer Sanat Naft and ready to jump ship.

The grand Decision Maker.

It is no secret that the government has been and continues to control football affairs. They own the clubs, appoint the CEO, directors, provide financial support and make decisions. Although the football federation operates and conforms to the international law of football and the governing body FIFA, in Iran, such rules are easily bypassed by a clever set of unwritten rulings.

What is seemed to look like the election of President and board members of the Federation is nothing like what it seems. There are merely appointments dressed in a form of election. The candidates and nominees are all government-affiliated, ex-employees but more significantly have played a role in the Sepah, Basij or IRGC. Football knowledge, competence, ability, and managerial skills are hardly a priority for the regime.

It is no clear what motives the Minister of Sport had on preferring a foreign coach, however, the speculation is that it is perhaps based on general public sentiment who prefer a foreign coach as a result of a good run for Team Melli under Queiroz.

Why a foreign coach?

The problems Iranian football had with foreign coaches are well documented and known to all stakeholders. In summary, it is about 3 factors, the first and the most important is the inability of the clubs to transfer money through the international banking system, second is the lack of professional discipline by the clubs resulting in conflicts and contractual disagreements, and last is the communication difficulties including cultural awareness of the foreigners that put them in a disadvantage compared to a local.

None of those three factors can go away anytime soon in Iran so the reason(s) behind insisting on a foreign coach must be more on the political side rather than technical. Although the Ministry of Sports had its own motive to decide on a foreigner leading Team Melli, most probably based on non-football related factors, in hindsight this could be the right decision.

No one can deny the technical ability of Daei and Ghalenoei the two front-runners for the job. However, Iranian coaches have this social stigma attached to them that is very difficult to absorb at the international level. Always diverting blame, always pointing fingers at others after defeats and failures, always the antagonists and confrontational and finally, dogmatic and inflexible unwilling to change their ways and plans despite failures.

For the authority, they are also risky because they can easily raise public anti-establishment emotions after defeats by Team Melli. Eventually, they all blame the system, something that the regime fears the most and has lead to several uprising and riots.

The Losers and the Winners.


FFIRI : A Bystander executing the orders of the paymaster

Ali Daei: Unfairly and deviously ousted by a regime who is fearful of his influence on masses

Hossein Faraki: His recent lack of success hurt his reputation and stands quite badly

Alireza Mansourian: A coach who is burnt early by consecutive lack of success and not appreciating his limitation.


Dragan Skocic: A dream post for him. Never considered a top coach and lack of success did not indicate that he is anywhere near taking such a mammoth task. He can really endear himself to all and do his CV a lot of good if he manages to take Iran to the World Cup 2020

Sanat Naft: An immediate compensation the value of US$ 170,000 for releasing Dragan Skocic from his contract. Money which is much needed to pay expenses and perhaps buy one or two players to strengthen the squad.

Sepahan Esfahan: Not willing to part with their coach who is challenging for the league title yet they had enough clout to say NO to the Minister and keep their much-sought-after coach.

Amir Ghalenoei: Has been there and done that. Ghalenoei who coached Team Melli in 2007 and experienced the hardship of coaching at that level with so many high expectations, was never too enthusiastic about taking the job again. Despite his desire to be seen as patriotic, whenever he was asked by the media about the job, he denied any offers and did not indicate that he was willing to leave his club Sepahan which was on a good run under his leadership. He is also looking to change his luck this season in AFC Champions League as a strong challenge for him.

Payam Niazmand approaching a record.

Two seasons ago, the 17th season of the Persian Gulf Premier League, Esteghlal Goalkeeper Seyed Hossein Hosseini reached a milestone with his club by keeping a clean sheet fo 872 minutes., the longest any goalkeeper has managed in the history of the league competition.

This season, the 19th edition, Payam Niazmand (Sepahan Esfahan) and Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri’s (Tractorsazi Tabriz) are rapidly challenging that record by their excellent performances for their clubs.

The two Team Melli goalkeepers are in close competition with each other to break that record and also for the title of the best goalkeeper of the season. The two goalkeepers have kept their doors closed for 630 minutes (7 consecutive matches) minutes this season, however, Niazmand also kept a clean sheet from last season final game, while he kept 80 minutes from the previous match so his tally of clean sheet stands at 802 minutes.

in order to break Seyed Hossein Hosseini’s record, the 24 years old Niazmand needs to keep one more clean sheet for more than 70 minutes of the next match against Saipa at home.

On the other hand, while Naizmand and Mazaheri have been exceptionally good this season in the league, the regular Team Melli custodian, Alireza Beiranvand has not been so fortunate as his rivals. Beiranvand has conceded 5 goals and his team Persepolis has dropped to the 5th position. The goalkeeper who was instantly a hit after saving Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot-kick and a penalty against Cambodia failed to repeat the same against Bahrain.

Persian Gulf Pro League Table & Standings

Pos Team P W D L F A +/- PTS Form
1 Sepahan Sepahan 7 5 2 0 10 0 +10 17 W W W D D
2 Tractor Sazi Tractor 7 5 2 0 8 0 +8 17 W W W W D
3 Shahr Khodrou Shahr Khodrou 7 5 1 1 8 3 +5 16 W W D L W
4 Foolad Foolad 7 3 3 1 6 4 +2 12 W W D W D
5 Sanat Naft Sanat Naft 7 3 3 1 5 3 +2 12 D W W D L
6 Persepolis Persepolis 7 4 0 3 5 5 0 12 W L L W W
7 Naft Masjed Soleyman Naft MIS 7 2 5 0 7 5 +2 11 W W D D D
8 Esteghlal Esteghlal 7 2 3 2 10 7 +3 9 W W D L D
9 Nassaji Mazandaran Nassaji 7 2 3 2 12 14 -2 9 L D D W L
10 Pars Jam Bushehr Pars Jam 7 1 4 2 6 7 -1 7 D L D W D
11 Machine Sazi Machine Sazi 7 2 1 4 9 13 -4 7 L D W L L
12 Saipa Saipa 7 2 1 4 9 14 -5 7 L L L L W
13 Paykan Paykan 7 1 2 4 13 14 -1 5 L L D W D
14 Zob Ahan Zob Ahan 7 0 4 3 5 9 -4 4 L L D D D
15 Gol Gohar Gol Gohar 7 0 3 4 3 8 -5 3 L L L L D
16 Shahin Bushehr Shahin 7 0 1 6 4 14 -10 1 L L L L D
Last updated: 

Zlatko Krancjar ” I left Iran because of sanctions”

The former head of the Iran Omid  (U23) team believes the sanctions imposed on Iran were the reason for his departure from the team, something that has caused other Iranian teams to face difficulties.

The Croatian coach Zlatko Krancjar ended his partnership with Iran’s Omid team and is now back in his own country, according to ISNA. The coach who held several coaching posts in Iran including leading Persepolis and Sepahan in Iranian football league, in discussion about his departure from the Iran team said “I could not continue to work in Iran because of the sanctions. Everything is determined by money, and because of sanctions, Iran’s sport, especially football, is in suffering severely.”

“The administration of the national teams at all age group levels is dependent on the on the government and the state of which it is willing to support, so it is not possible to improve the situation,” he continued. “In any case, I have been in Iran for 6 years and I thoroughly enjoy that period and enjoyed Iran. In Sepahan, I was able to win two trophies. In the Omid team of Iran, I also got good results in the Olympic qualifiers were we qualified for the finals. I’d better rest now.  Also notice that , Winfred Schaefer also left Iran. Branco Ivankovic , who has won three championships in a row and has been in the AFC Champions League final, is facing some financial problems.”

Hadi Aghili hangs his boots.

Team Melli former central defender has retired from football. Hadi Aghili who is currently on the books of Sepahan , announced that he is quitting football altogether.

The 36 years old defender had a turbulent career marred by indiscipline and revolt. 5 years ago, he was banned from Team Melli at his prime when he suddenly quit Team Melli camp because Queiroz did not name him in the starting line up. He never played again after that episode although he was pardoned.

The current season saw another of Aghili’s antics as he had issues with the former coach Abdollah Veisi. The dispute  resulted in the coach sidelining Aghili for most of the season. Although Veisi was sacked and replaced by Kranjcar, the Croat coach did not see it fit to field out of practise Aghili in his team.

Aghili played 69 matches for Team Melli and scored 10 goals registering himself as one of the top scoring defenders in Team Melli history.  Aghili never played in the World Cup although he was destined to be one of the squad member during 2014 World Cup.