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Professionalism in Iranian football

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Posted on Thursday, October 11 2007

Professionalism in Iranian football: A perpetual theory

With the election of the new IFF president, we are going to enter a new era in our football where his ideas and works will positively or negatively influence the future of the Iranian football.

Considering the list of the eligible candidates, we quickly get a hint on what our football is about to go through in the coming years. The poor quality of the criteria for choosing the future IFF President showed everyone that in our football professionalism in no case represents a prime criteria for having access to such position.

A quick look at the recent events in our football will make us realize what we should expect from our football in future.

The awakening

After the general defeat of our football during the World Cup in Germany, the tone of Iranian football fans in regard to their favorite football team of all has changed drastically. If previously, for no obvious reason related to the quality levels reached in our football, we have had no pain in talking about our football with highest possible expectations as the best in Asia and one of the top 20 teams in the world, we realized painfully that those assumptions could in no case be accepted as true statements anymore. The observed facts were quite embarrassing and different from what we thought knowing about our football. The fact was that our football could not even be compared to the level of some other Asian team’s performances and our enthusiastic reactions to our football were nothing else but some patriotic statements.

The warning alarm was ringing loud and continuously. The awakening was painful and the bitter taste of betrayal was unbearable. Iranian football supporters had been told football fairy tales and they finally discovered they had been the subject of a shameful plan, counting on their sentimental and patriotic feelings.

The lack of proper team preparation before the tournament, underperformances of our team during the second halves of their matches, obvious motivation problems observed among our players on the pitch, major disciplinary problems inside the team, lack of authority and competence from our coaches and our football organization in order to find efficient solutions for bringing the team together, lack of proper explanation under the report format made by the responsible persons at the end of the tournament, the complete dismantlement of the team under all imaginable forms by the end of the tournament, the general hatred observed among fans against our own national heroes, the total financial confusion in regard to FIFA’s support to our team as a participant in WC etc. …. made the Iranian fans realize how un-professionally and weakly our football at his best level was organized. The impact of the shock was so big that many fans considered our football lost forever and stopped supporting “teame melli”.

The revolution

In the other hand, this shock was necessary for taking our football fans out of their long lasting hibernation. Without such obvious inexcusable and miserable display from our national team, witnessed by all football lovers around the world, the lies and foxy explanations of our football federation could have lasted forever. After all, our football federation had been playing with names, fans’ emotional reactions and the conflict of interests for very long time. Usage of incompetent but co-operative people for covering our own organizational incompetence was an efficient policy opted by the federation and accepted generally by the fans.

For those who still believed Iranian football was a rough precious stone which needed special treatment for shining at its real value, the word “Professionalism” was the “Solution Miracle”. After all, our football was everything but professionally organized.

After a quick examination of our football for finding the roots of its problems, we soon realized that most of our problems were related to the absence of three elements. Lack of necessary funds for supporting properly the necessary efforts for getting the required qualities, the general cultural confusion leading to the acceptance of low values or standards in our football and the educational problems allowing every single person involved in our football to claim himself as expert or professional, made our football survive among people sharing and defending the same level of values and principals. Our football had become an autarchic parasite.

The message for curing our football was clear: “Our football is suffering from fundamental problems. We need to start restructuring our football from its roots, immediately. Professionalism represents our future.”

The reality

Even though the idea of professionalism was quite clear to those who analyzed our football and saw how inefficiently it was organized, it remained a misunderstood concept for many. In Iran, the concept of being a professional person in football was reduced to assuring oneself monthly revenues from football activities regardless the quality of the efforts provided. For that reason, it was very natural that many people were reluctant to understand what professionalism was really about. After all, the practice of the real professional values may have caused them loss of position, revenue and influential power on others and subsequently, a transparent status which sooner or later would have reduced their total freedom in doing side businesses to nothing.

Unfortunately, the turning wheel of time ran against those who were looking for changes in our football. The international calendar for our national team was fixed in advance by the Asian Football Confederation and Iran was scheduled to participate in different competitions after the world cup. We had no choice but to take decisions fast, within a short period of time and with the available elements. Our badly injured football had to go back to the battlefields of competition with no leading force, no real plans, no preparation time and no efficient resources. We knew in advance that nothing good would come out of them.

The first important occasion where our football had to witness its first unprofessional decision making was on the occasion of the Asian Cup’s qualification games. Our national team had to get itself together within no time for starting its qualification matches for the AC.

The national team had to be organized under the patronage of a provisional federation which was already in serious discussions with FIFA for proving its legitimacy and compliancy. With a head coach who took the job because of some reasons not related to his national coaching abilities, with no real envy from our national players to embark into another misadventure under a coach with no international experience and with no real preparative time and plans, our football was unavoidably heading towards another hurting experience. This time the scenario was even worse than the world cup situation. Our team had no real support from its fans and the media. With all above mentioned problems, the Iranian national team managed somehow to assure its qualification ticket for AC. Those Iranian fans who were championing the professionalism in our football, were helplessly witnessing another bad organization with improper individuals taking the commands of our football in hands.

The AC 2007 experience was a quite disappointing one for Iranian football but it was also something predictable in advance. Unprofessionally, we acted again. Powerless, we were when we had to make the right decision quickly. We did our best but obviously the best we could do was not enough at all.

The second blow to our football came when Esteghlal, one of the Iranian clubs which was qualified for the Asian Champions League in 2007, was disqualified from the competition for their administrative incompetence.

The failure of the club responsible persons to submit the list of players taking part in ACL tournament to the organizers on time, a very simple administrative procedure which could have been done even through an official fax message, caused Esteghlal’s elimination. Unprofessionally, we acted again. This time, our team had all the necessary required time to act professionally, however the wrong understanding of the international competition rules and somehow a neglecting attitude by the top responsible persons in the club made the whole team suffer drastically. The sarcastic part of this situation was the amount of the extraordinary efforts made by whole Iranian football in order to convince the organizers of the tournament to change their minds. This situation alone could say a lot on how Iranian mentality functions.

The third blow to our football was after FIFA announced the Iranian football federation was actually not acting in accordance with basic FIFA rules. The severe decision, made towards the Iranian football for acting immediately against those non conformities, was to ban Iran from International competition. This decision came just before the start of the Asian games in Doha, where our under 21 team was supposed to take part in the football competition.

Despite the late special permission granted by FIFA, enabling our national team to take part in the competition, Iranian football fans witnessed continuous disappointing displays by their young team. The lack of leadership in coaching level, the lack of team performance by the team and some disappointing results against weaker teams, demonstrated how badly our team was prepared and organized. Unprofessionally, we acted again.

The reality of our football has not changed much from 16 months ago when a provisional committee took over the power in our football. For 16 months, we only opted for “case by case” solutions. Preparing our national teams for AC and the Asian games, organizing the start of our new professional league, updating our football chart and making it acceptable to the FIFA standards and now organizing the election of the Iranian football federation’s President are few subjects the Iranian provisional football federation had to deal with in time. In all above cases, except for the preparation of the new football chart which was prepared under the close collaboration with FIFA and because of the severe notice given by FIFA, we have not managed to improve anything at all. Lack of time, lack of proper infrastructure, lack of available professional people, lack of proper communication, etc … caused our football its latest deficiencies.

The worst to come

It seems that the new President of Iranian football federation will have to take care of our football in parallel to his other obligations and duties. When thinking about it, we certainly wonder how small we think of such position in the circle of our decision making people! Sharing such position with other professional activities is an insult towards those who care about the sport.

In my humble opinion, as far as we see such key positions in our football with such low esteem, we must admit that our football will always be seen, treated and talked about in the same or even lower level of esteem. Candidates who have not realized the importance of the problems and the amount of hard work necessary for getting our football out of its miseries, could not be a good and capable President for our football. If we see our football organization as a place where people keep on obtaining extra promotional positions, we must start preparing ourselves to see the worst to come yet.

Professionalism forever

I wish I could have said “Professionalism forever” in another context where we have had achieved a great goal because of our dedication and belief in such noble concept. Unfortunately, we know that this is clearly not the case and that the turn things are getting in our football, the above quote will only express a regretted concept which can find no other place in our football than in our football fans forums or among few clean and caring people in our football circles.

Where we stand now is already a step behind where we stood before the start of our football federation’s presidential elections.

The reality of professionalism in our football may not see its day before we have another huge loss in international level, touching us deeply in our pride. The world cup in Germany was the result of our long-term unprofessional decision making mistakes. Many fans left the boat as they believed that it was not a mistake but an unacceptable repeated mistake. Many others stayed on board and gave another chance to our football for learning from our past mistakes and building on new grounds.

Today, we cannot deny that we undoubtedly are making the same mistakes again. Those who stay must be prepared for disappointing times in our football to come. To those who give up on our football now, we have no other words to express but to hope that we meet again when fighting for the professionalism again.

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