Iran General NewsRobson not for turning by offer from Iran

Robson not for turning by offer from Iran

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The Times: SIR BOBBY ROBSON was at the centre of one of football’s more curious episodes last night when the Iran Football Federation (IFF) pronounced itself confident that the former England manager was to be appointed coach of the country’s Olympic and youth teams. This surprising revelation caused most shock in one particular household. “This is absolutely bizarre,” Robson said. The Times

By George Caulkin and Kaveh Solhekol

SIR BOBBY ROBSON was at the centre of one of football’s more curious episodes last night when the Iran Football Federation (IFF) pronounced itself confident that the former England manager was to be appointed coach of the country’s Olympic and youth teams. This surprising revelation caused most shock in one particular household. “This is absolutely bizarre,” Robson said.

For the past week, Iranian media agencies have been reporting that Robson, 72, was expected to sign a three-year contract with Iran. It was also suggested that he was scheduled to travel to Tehran last week to watch the national team play Japan in a crucial World Cup qualifier last Friday, but the trip was cancelled after visa complications.

It seemed a dubious arrangement, but after being contacted by The Times yesterday, Mohammad Dadgan, president of the IFF, appeared to confirm it. “Mr Robson has turned down very good offers from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to join our project,” he said. “He is our No 1 choice and I am sure the visa problems will be solved soon so that he can lead us to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.”

Robson has not been directly involved in management since his dismissal in August from Newcastle United — with whom he is engaged in a contract dispute — but he has always insisted that he would return to the game in a senior capacity. Iran, who are No 20 in the world, 12 places behind England in the Fifa rankings, would represent a challenge, albeit a desperately unlikely one.

It is not one that he has any intention of filling, however. Through Spotlight, a London-based sports marketing company, and Gordon Milne, the director of football at Newcastle, Robson did receive contact from the IFF, but only in relation to attending the Japan match, which Iran — who are coached by Branko Ivankovic, a Croat — won 2-1.

“I got an invitation to watch Iran versus Japan via Gordon,” Robson said. “It was only a little inquiry and I turned down that offer. I’ve got no idea where this story has come from and there’s nothing in it. I haven’t been contacted by Bahrain either. The whole thing is completely strange.”

Spotlight was approached by the IFF two months ago to assist in the development of Iran’s footballing infrastructure, but Russell Colin, the company’s managing director, denied that Robson had been offered a position as coach. “In no way is this deemed to be Bobby taking a coaching role,” Colin said.

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