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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Queiroz Buys Time With Iran to See Which Way Political Winds Blow

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz remains in discussion with the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) after turning down an offer to become the country’s national coach, according to the Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA).

Queiroz is reported to be also in talks with Saudi Arabia, which last month fired two coaches within as many weeks during the Asian Cup tournament in Qatar.

IRIFF international relations chief Abba Torabian said Iran had sought to keep the talks with Queiroz secret, but remained keen on establishing a relationship with him.

Queiroz told Iranian football officials that he would be interested in working with the national team as a consultant rather than a coach, Torabian said

“We kept in touch with Queiroz and he suggested working with the Iran football team as a consultant. Nevertheless, we didn’t accept his offer,” Torabian said.

“We are optimistic that he will accept our offer and take charge of the team. But first, we have to assure him that he won’t have any problem in Iran,” he said.

Queiroz turned down Iran’s offer of a $6 million, three-year contract as coach citing family reasons. Iranian officials said Queiroz’s wife did not want to live in Iran, a country that imposes strict conservative mores on women in public.

Some analysts believe however that Queiroz is seeking to prolong the talks because of the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that have already toppled two leaders, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine Abedine Ben Ali, and last week led to a crackdown on the Iranian opposition that demonstrated in support of the Arab revolts.

“He is buying time to see where the unrest goes and he has communicated that to the FFIRI in some way, because they for the first time seem to be open to the idea,” said prominent Iranian soccer blogger Afshin Afshar.

Iran last week banned all professional soccer matches in Tehran aimed at preventing the pitch from becoming a rallying point for the opposition.

The postponement of the Tehran matches follows the suspension of league games in Egypt and in Algeria, which is also wracked by anti-government protests.

It was unclear whether the Iranian federation’s persistence in pursuing Queiroz was at least in part a reflection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s possible interest in seeing the Portuguese coach hired. Ahmedinejad has in recent years taken an active interest in the appointment of several coaches of the Iranian team.

Soccer analysts believe Queiroz could indeed make a major contribution to the Iranian team, which like all other Middle Eastern squads, performed poorly at last month’s Asian Cup.

“It seems to me that Queiroz honestly wishes to do some bottom up constructive work. His ideas are the most comprehensive I have heard from any coach or candidate for the Team Melli (the Iranian national team’s nickname) job in recent years,” Afshan said.

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