Team Melli ready for an Iranian coach.

It is high time this federation, aka the regime, thinks of appointing a National coach to lead Team Melli in the next stage which is the AFC Asian Cup 2023 and beyond.

It is now over 11 years since an Iranian head coach has managed Team Melli. The last one who could speak Farsi was Afshin Ghotbi, who left his post following the elimination of Iran in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2011.  Before him, it was Mayeli Kohn who was fired as soon as he was recruited, and before that Ali Daei.

The disappointing failure in the FIFA World Cup should ring some alarm bells in the FFIRI or the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the de facto ruler of football in Iran. There is nothing to suggest that Carlos Queiroz has anything more to offer Team Melli. In fact, his sudden return was an act of desperation by one man whose recent return has created controversy as head of the Football Federation. Mehdi Taj took a gamble by listening to several senior players who thought that Queiroz would be a much better option than Dragan Skocic with less than 3 months to go to the World Cup. That gamble failed, and Team Melli left Doha with two defeats, the first of which was a painful humiliation for Iran’s football.

The return of Mehdi Taj is not a good omen for Iran football. The man is a political appointee and his priority is certainly not toward football development or growth. The object is to safeguard the regime’s interest using the popularity of football as a tool. Such appointments are quite common in Iranian establishments.

The gamble on Queiroz, who was fired from his previous two jobs due to failures,  was part of the plan to preserve the regime while it was suffering the most serious of internal challenges. Queiroz served a purpose and with a handsome payment for a few months, he would abide by the rules.

After  8 years of the Portuguese man and millions spent, Team Melli Queiroz has achieved nothing that a decent local Iranian coach would not achieve. It is now the right time to pick that decent Iranian coach to lead Team Melli in Doha, like the last time under Ghotbi. There is no lack of candidates either, but the best candidate must be Yahya Golmohammadi.

At 51 and after an illustrious football career as Team Melli and Persepolis player, Golmohammadi coached several teams like  Naft Tehran, Zob Ahan, Tractor Sazi, and Padideh before he took over Persepolis in 2020 (for the second time in his career).  Golmohammadi managed to win the league title twice with Persepolis.  While not perfect and has his shortfalls, Golmaohammadi, proved many times that he is a skillful and consistent coach with a winning mentality who can control and lay down the best game plans for his players and could also control rebel players too. Under limited resources and shortages of star players, he lead the team to the title while others clubs with better players and resources failed to do so.  Golmaohammadi therefore must be a leading candidate for Team Melli.

Amir Ghalenoei is consistently ranked near the top of coaches in Iran. The former Head Coach of Team Melli and a record holder of League titles wins as a coach has the attributes and abilities of a successful coach.  His major shortfall has to be the temperament that has put him in all sorts of trouble. This is possibly the only setback with Ghalenoei.

Javad Nekounam is a young and upcoming star in coaching in Iran. His shortage of experience in coaching is covered by his long playing career in Spain under quality coaches. He learned from the best.

In any case, there would be other contenders for the Team Melli head coach job, the important matter is that this federation must give the Iranians the opportunity to manage their own team the way that Morocco, Japan, Australia, and many other teams in the World Cup have done. FFIRI has to put trust in Iranian coaches at some stage, and there is no better time than now. I should be a long-term project too.