Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ahmadinejad to visit Germany if Iran reaches 2nd round in the World Cup

Monsters & Critics:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iran's footballers Saturday he would make every effort to visit them if they reach the second round of the World Cup in Germany, sources close to the squad told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. READ MORE

The players told the president they hoped he would make good on his promise and presented him with a national team jersey with the number 24 and his name on it, the sources said.

Iran, who play in Group D against Mexico in Nuremberg, Portugal in Frankfurt and Angola in Leipzig, need to fill one of the top two places to qualify for the second round.

During a farewell ceremony at the German ambassador's residence in Tehran, the players said the political controversy surrounding their country would not affect the team's performance.

The news agency ISNA quoted the head of the Iranian Football Federation (FFI) as confirming the probable visit of the president in case the Iranian reached the next round.

'The president is interested to see the games live in Germany if the team reaches the second round and Inshallah (God willing) we will both reach the second round and witness the presence of our president in the games (in Germany),' Mohammad Dadkan said.

'We are not after political issues in Germany and just want to transfer our message of peace and friendship to the world,' he said while adding that all necessary steps have been taken by both Iran and Germany to avoid any political tensions.

The FFI president had said earlier Saturday that the president might visit Germany for the World Cup.

'We met the president on Thursday and extended an official FFI invitation to him to join the team in Germany,' Dadkan told reporters prior to the team's departure for Germany.

'The president said that he would come if he could finish arranging the affairs of state and had some spare time,' Dadkan added.

Ahmadinejad has been roundly condemned by Germany and other western countries for denying the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist.

The Iranian squad is due to arrive in Germany on Sunday and take up residence in the southern city of Friedrichshafen.

Neo-Nazi groups in Germany have threatened to hold rallies in support of the Iran president's policies during the World Cup.