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After Football Boss's Shock Re-election, Will Carlos Queiroz Return to Iranian Football?

August 31, 2022
Payam Younesipour
4 min read
Mehdi Taj’s return came even as he polarized opinion in Iranian football with news of the possible return of Carlos Queiroz – the Portuguese former head coach of the Iranian national team – ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
Mehdi Taj’s return came even as he polarized opinion in Iranian football with news of the possible return of Carlos Queiroz – the Portuguese former head coach of the Iranian national team – ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar
Queiroz’s return was the only proposal Mehdi Taj made during his reelection campaign
Queiroz’s return was the only proposal Mehdi Taj made during his reelection campaign
In recent months, several players of the Iranian national football team, as well as some experts such as Javad Nekounam in Khuzestan Steel, and club managers like Mohammed Momeni, a member of the board of directors of Esteghlal, have accused Dragan Skocic of colluding with brokers
In recent months, several players of the Iranian national football team, as well as some experts such as Javad Nekounam in Khuzestan Steel, and club managers like Mohammed Momeni, a member of the board of directors of Esteghlal, have accused Dragan Skocic of colluding with brokers

Mehdi Taj was re-elected president of the Iranian Football Federation at an extraordinary general assembly held yesterday, August 30, despite the fact that secretary-general Hasan Kamranifar had ordered the election be canceled outright less than 10 hours earlier. Kamranifar's reason for the demand was "violations of the regulations".

The Federation’s board nevertheless decided to proceed. Taj, a deeply controversial figure whose previous tenure from 2016 to 2019 was marred by soft corruption scandals, steamrollered the competition with 51 votes. Competitor Mirshad Majedi received 25 votes, Azizollah Mohammadi four. At the same time Mehdi Mohammadnabi was voted first vice president, Mansour Ghanbarzadeh as second vice president and Mohammedreza Saket as representatives of fan clubs.

Taj’s return came even as he polarized opinion in Iranian football circles by floating the idea of bringing back Carlos Quriroz, the Portuguese former head coach of the national team, ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Queiroz’s return was the only proposal Taj made. 

This was the same man who brought Iranian football to the brink of bankruptcy by green-lighting a nonsensical contract with British coach Marc Wilmots. His son Ali, meanwhile, a sports media owner, had equally controversilly played a role in selection Team Melli's current coach, the Croatian manager Dragan Skočić, after his father resigned. 

A Dramatic Reshuffle in the Countdown to Qatar

Mehdi Taj's first and most pivotal move as president will likely be to propose the return of Carlos Queiroz to the Iranian national team at the board's first post-election meeting. For the time being at least, he has articulated no other policy he plans to follow.

Article 36 of the Constitution of the Iranian Football Federation states that board members have to reach a quorum of two thirds for a decision of this magnitude, and it must be a majority vote. In the event of a tie, the president will have the final day; in their absence this falls to the vice-president. As it stands, that means at least six members of the board need to be behind the idea of inviting Queiroz back.

A Done Deal?

Minutes after Mehdi Taj’s presidency was confirmed, Mirshad Majedi announced that he would vote against any attempted dismissal of Dragan Skočić, the current coach. Majedi was acting head of the Federation before the vote on Tuesday. How much sway he holds with members, however, remains to be seen.

The other newly-elected members are expected to back Taj's proposal, as well as two others who vetoed the attempt to postpone the election. The remaining board members are Ehsan Osouli, Ahmadreza Barati, Tahmoures Heydari, Mirshad Majedi and Khodadad Afsharian, of whom all bar Majedi and Afsharian are known supporters of Mehdi Taj. Two of them - Heydari and Barati - were Federation managers under Taj's previous tenure.

Dragan Skočić has come under fire from Iranian media outlets and pundits, including Mehr News Agency, for the surprise nature of his appointment; allegedly a private meeting involving several media managers as well as Taj's son saw him fast-tracked to the top role, where previously he had not even been among the known candidates. Some players have also accused Skočić of colluding with brokers. Recently, though, other current players have reacted to increasing pressure on Skočić by publicly coming out in support of him and insisting he remain in post.

Carlos Queiroz was the head coach of Team Melli for eight long years. He has probably the deepest understanding of players' needs and the dynamics of Iranian top-tier football; many of the current players were trained by him and have a good relationship with him. His international reputation has raised hopes that he might lead the team to success at the World Cup. To underscore the point, Taj praised the four points Iran won under Queiroz's management at the last World Cup in in 2018, and even said Queiroz would take this further "when" he returns to Iran. 

All this, of course, depends on something that is still an unknown quantity: whether Carlos Queiroz actually wants to make such a comeback. There were numerous public spats during his previous period as manager, and after one of them, he claimed he was being "held hostage by the Federation" after his passport was seized at the airport in Tehran following a threat to walk away. At the time of writing, Queiroz had yet to comment on the proposals.

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