Saturday, June 24, 2006

Iran Team returns to Tehran, 'scapegoats' prefer to stay abroad

Monsters & Critics:
While the Iranian national football team returned to Tehran in the early hours of Saturday, the 'scapegoats' for the Iranian defeat preferred to stay abroad, the news agency ISNA reported.

ISNA said coach Branko Ivankovic, assistant coach Hossein Faraki, skipper Ali Daei and the Bundesliga legionnaires who were supposed to be the heart and soul of the team but gave rather disappointing performances were not with the team.

Ivankovic returned to Croatia with his family, Daei went to the United States with his wife and Mehdi Mahdavikia, Vahid Hashemian and Fereydoon Zandi returned to their German club teams. READ MORE

Only Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi returned with the team.

Karimi, the superstar of Iranian football who was supposed to have a major impact on the team's performance, produced what sports journalists termed as his weakest displays in Germany.

His harsh protests after the substitution in the game against Portugal earned him a disciplinary penalty which kept him out of the team for the third game against Angola.

'I apologise to the people,' Karimi told ISNA in Tehran, but he could not resist a dig at coach Ivankovic.

'Ivankovic was not qualified enough for achieving a big aim such as making the Iranian team successful in a World Cup. He did not even have the guts to return with the team to Iran,' he said.

The flop in the World Cup also exposed to the public the deep divisions between Karimi and skipper Daei.

Some 100 police had been stationed at the Mehrabad airport for preventing protests by angry fans, but they did not show up at all.

Police did not allow any reporters or photographers, even the local media, to get inside the airport to talk to the players and officials. Offenders were threatened by police with confiscation of their press cards.

The players eventually left the airport through a secret gate to avoid confronting both the press and fans.

The Iranian Football Federation (FFI) is expected to undergo significant changes after the Iranian Sports Organization fired FFI President Mohammad Dadkan right after the Angola game. The new president was scheduled to be disclosed Saturday.