AFP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has withdrawn his candidate to head the national football federation, in a bid to end a row with FIFA that threatened Iran’s future in world football. TEHRAN (AFP) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has withdrawn his candidate to head the national football federation, in a bid to end a row with FIFA that threatened Iran’s future in world football.
Ahmadinejad said he had told Mohammad Ali-Abadi, an Iranian Vice President and head of the state-run Physical Education Organisation (PEO) not to stand in elections to head the Iranian Football Federation.
The candidacy of Ali-Abadi has infuriated FIFA, whose regulations take a strong stance against any government interference in football. Iran risked again being banned from world football if they did not comply.
“In the interest of football, I tell Ali-Abadi to step aside and let the elections take place and allow the election of an appropriate person,” Ahmadinejad told state television in an interview late on Sunday.
Ahmadinejad said he had promoted the politically conservative Al-Abadi as a “strong” candidate.
But his nomination was seen as a direct challenge to the acting head of the federation, Mohsen Safayee Farahani, a reformist who is allied to the president’s political opponents.
“A political team tried to exploit the situation without taking into account national interests,” Ahmadinejad, who touts himself as a big football fan, said in the interview.
The dispute over Ali-Abadi’s eligibility has for the last weeks held up the election for the presidency of the federation.
“There are certain rules on who can and who cannot run for federation presidency,” Safayee-Farahani told the Fars news agency last week.
“The country’s sports chief and main policy maker in sports affairs is one of those who definitely cannot,” he noted.
The vacuum at the top has also impeded the underperforming Iranian national team’s search for a new coach. Officials have said an appointment can only be made after the federation elections.
Names including Germany’s Winfried Schaefer and Frenchman Philippe Troussier have been mooted as possible candidates to revive the fortunes of the national side after their dismal 2006 World Cup first round exit.
Iran have been handed a relatively straightforward draw for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in a group including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Syria.
The country was briefly banned from world football last year for political interference when the government sacked the then federation’s president, Mohammed Dadkan after the team’s failure at the 2006 Germany World Cup.