Less than a day after Iran’s exit from the World Cup in Russia, Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Iran’s National Football Team, entered into psychological warfare against Branko Ivanković, the head coach of Persepolis football club and, immediately afterward, against the head coach of Esteghlal, Winfried Schäfer.

The reason is at least partially clear. Queiroz wants to have one-man rule. In his latest statement, he did not mince words: “Mr. Branko! This country is too small for both of us. I do not have my brother and my family working with me. Now people have to decide: It is either me or you.”

At first glance, Queiroz’s attacks on the head coaches of Persepolis and Esteghlal might seem pointless, but actually, he is being tactical. In the same way that he plans a football game, he is kicking the ball to his competitor’s field so that he can take over the whole pitch. He wants to be the one to decide who the coach of a particular football team should be. 

But when it comes to the head coach of Persepolis, this not the only reason for Queiroz’s attack. He blames what he describes as “Branko’s efforts” to cancel national football team’s training camps for its lack of success. “I am saying these things directly to Mr. Branko and those who supported him and hurt our plans…we were so close to success but [there were] little details that could have helped us,” he said.   

And he continued: “We are familiar with the poison that Branko is spreading.” And then he addressed Branko Ivanković directly. “You have forgotten that during an entire week, players like Vahid Amir, Rouzbeh Cheshmi, Majid Hosseini and Kamal Kamyabinia were available to the national team for only a couple of days. You praised the players of the domestic league but you forgot that Ramin Rezaian and Mehdi Taremi, whom you drove away from the [Persepolis] team, also played for the national team and shined.”

Queiroz was referring to Branko Ivanković’s claim that “players of the Iranian League who played for the national team put on a great show.” Queiroz accuses Branko of destroying the mood of the national team, suggesting it was the reason that Iran did not win its last two games in the World Cup. “Your praise of domestic players was a kind of throwing poison that was meant to divide,” he said. “When you forgot to praise Ramin and Mehdi it means that you are creating divisions within the team.”

“Someone Else” Is at Fault

But can it really be true that simple praise (or lack of it) damaged the mood and the determination of the Iranian national football team? Queiroz knows very well what he is saying and what he is doing. The matter of whether he will continue working with Iran’s Football Federation or not has not yet been settled — and that is part of why he has launched his attacks. If he stays working with the federation, then his attacks and criticisms will continue and, if he doesn’t, then the blame will be on someone else — not because he and the federation could not agree on a new contract.

Queiroz also knows how to play with people’s emotions. “The people of Iran remember that you paid hundreds of thousand dollars to bring in Ukrainian players and boycotted the national team’s program behind the scenes,” he said. “Members of my family do not work for the national team and I have not hired my brother or my son as coaches. I have not mixed my job with business and commerce.”

Here he is touching on the subject of financial corruption — an endemic problem in Iran and one which has led to protests all over the country. Of course, when he talks about financial corruption, he has failed to address accusations leveled by football legend (and former Persepolis star) Ali Karimi against him, and also from his advisor Bamdad Mirzaei.

Queiroz has started a new game, and in the coming days we will see more of it. If he does continue working with the federation, it remains to be seen how he will behave toward the coaches of Esteghlal, Persepolis and other coaches in Iran’s Upper League. In the meantime, it is important to remember that it was Queiroz himself who started distinguishing between footballers who play for domestic teams and those who play for foreign ones. It was he who said that Iranian League players cannot control Ronaldo.

This sets the tone for the foreseeable future. In the aftermath of the World Cup, it is painful to think that in the coming four years before the next tournament, football fans will be forced to breathe in such a toxic atmosphere.

 

More about Iran at the 2018 World Cup:

Iran-Portugal Tie: Who Could Have Imagined It?, June 25, 2018

Fans Disrupt Portugal Players' Sleep on Eve of Match, June 25, 2018

Iran-Spain: Not All Defeats Are Created Equal, June 21, 2018

Queiroz: "The God of Football Will Decide”, June 20, 2018

Iran Vs Spain: Before the Match, June 20, 2018

Mehdi Mahdavikia in Kazan, June 20, 2018

Big Boost in Jersey Sales as Iran Celebrates Win, June 18, 2018

Iran’s Victory against Morocco: The World Responds, June 17, 2018

Iran’s Last-Minute Miracle Win, June 15, 2018

Iran Fans in Moscow's Red Square, June 14, 2018

Iran vs. Morocco: The First Challenge, June 14, 2018

Decoding Iran’s Politics: Football and State Interference, June 11, 2018

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