Confusion over Iran football coach
Iranian news agencies announce Afshin Ghotbi and Ali Daei as new national coach.
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2008 14:49 GMT

Former Iran striker Ali Daei was named as new national coach, but so was Ashkin Ghotbi [EPA]

Confusion reigned over selection of the new Iran national football coach as the Iranian Student's News Agency (INSA) and the semi-official Fars news agency announced that two different men had been appointed to the role.
INSA had earlier reported that Afshin Ghotbi, an Iranian-American, was being considered for the role but no final deal had been agreed, with Fars later confirming the Persepolis coach's appointment, quoting the deputy head of Iran's Football Federation (FFI).
"Ghotbi will coach the national team in the first round of the World Cup qualification games against Kuwait, Syria and the United Arab Emirates," Fars quoted Mehdi Taj as saying, adding that Taj said the 45-year-old Ghotibi was chosen over four other Iranian candidates for the position.

"Ghotbi will coach the national team in the first round of the World Cup qualification games... "

Mehdi Taj, FFI deputy head
However rival agency INSA then reported that Ali Daei, former star player and world record international scorer, was the new national coach in a shock announcement, quoting Ali Kafashian, FFI chief.

"After examining Ali Daei's plans, he was officially named as head coach of the national team," ISNA quoted Iranian football federation head Kafashian as saying.

"After examining Ali Daei's plans, he was officially named as head coach of the national team."

Ali Kafashian, FFI chief

"Initial talks were held with Ali Daei over the past days and today we held a meeting with him where he submitted his plans to the federation."

Kafashian later told state television: "He [Daei] will bring all his plans for the national team and do his best at the level of head coach, like the he did when he was one of the world's best players.

"Tomorrow [Monday] he starts his work as head coach and he has full authority. His chief plan is to take the team for the World Cup."

Coaching saga over?

Earlier, INSA reported that Kioumars Hashemi, deputy head of the government Physical Education Organisation (PEO) and Kafashian held talks with Ghotbi on Saturday.

"We will continue our discussions with Ghotbi but nothing is definite," ISNA quoted Kafashian as saying after the meeting.

"When the matter is definite, we will announce the head coach."

Iran have been searching for a new football coach for months, with many top foreign names mentioned, two managers seemingly appointed before being rejected, and an ongoing saga of contradictory statements.

Javier Clemente, Spanish coach, is definitely out of the running after he refused to live full-time in Iran, despite briefly reopening talks with Iranian officials last week.

Clemente failed to make contact with the Iranian embassy in Madrid for negotiations, and Kafashian was quoted as saying: "We are not thinking about Clemente any more."

Government interference

The current coaching debacle has again brought up the longstanding controversy over government interference in football in Iran, an issue which has seen the national team suspended by Fifa in the past.

The Etemad daily said the PEO showed a "cold attitude" towards Ghotbi during their meeting, thus holding up the Iranian-American's appointment.

"It seems that the issue (of the coach) has faced some problems," Mohsen Safaei Farahani, former football federation chief, told ISNA.

"Any interference in the decision... is against the Fifa statutes.

"Fifa will be sensitive towards such interference and will definitely react... if the decisions are being ignored."

However the PEO issued a statement declining any interference in the choice of coach.

"The PEO will not interfere in the selection for the coach of the Team Melli," said Mohammad Akhundi, the state-run organisation's spokesman.

National hero

Daei, whose career included spells at German clubs Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin, was indisputably Iran's most famous footballer ever and still holds the record as the top goal-scorer in international football.

The 38-year-old only retired fully from playing last year and has been coaching Tehran club side Saipa.

Iranian football fans are likely to be excited about the elevation of their greatest star to lead the national team, however there will be doubts over the relative novice's experience.

Iran made a poor start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign last month by only drawing with minnows Syria in a performance that portrayed the effects of the lack of a coach.

Iran's next qualifier is against Kuwait on March 26 in Kuwait City.

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