The continuous saga of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haj Safi entered its next phase this week. The two Iranian national team footballers who play for the Greek club Panionios took to the field against Maccabi of Tel Aviv last week despite the IR Regime’s policy of not competing against Israeli teams and athletes.
The first “official” reaction to the duo’s participation in the UEFA Cup preliminary match came from the Deputy Sports Minister, Mohammad Reza Daavarzani who after venting against the “Zionist Regime” and defending the “Mazloom” Palestinians, condemned the 2 players and said that their fate is in the hands of the Sports Ministry and the Iranian Football Federation, and not the coach, Carlos Queiroz, and they will not be “invited” to the national team.
There are several problems with Daavarzani’s statement. First of all, FIFA does not have a relationship with sports ministries who are regarded as a part of a government and their heads are generally appointed by politicians. FIFA’s relationship with its 210 members is through the Football Federations, and the continents’ Football Confederations like AFC. Any interference by any governmental entity in the football affairs will bring in fines, probations and bans by FIFA, as is currently the case for Kuwait and Indonesia.
Secondly, over the past 6 years, Carlos Queiroz has been solely responsible for the selection of the national team’s players and has not allowed any interference by various power centers in Iran in his affairs. So it will be highly unlikely that anyone can tell Queiroz who to “invite” and who not to “invite,” without major blowback.
The other person who has some role here and is on good terms with Queiroz is Mehdi Taj, the head of the Iranian Football Federation who has been out of town in Malaysia attending AFC matters. He has been conspicuously silent on this issue.
Queiroz has also been on vacation in his native Portugal and Mozambique and will return to Tehran on Monday. The first order of business for Queiroz is to announce the list of players for the 2 upcoming World Cup qualifiers against S. Korea in Seoul on August 31st and against Syria in Tehran on Sept. 5th.
So it looks like that the powers to be in Iran will task Mehdi Taj to convince Queiroz to not “invite” Shojaei and Haj Safi for the upcoming matches. And Queiroz, with an eye towards the real prize which is the 2018 World Cup, might go along as long as there will not be any more interferences in the future.
The fact that the results of the 2 upcoming matches are meaningless and Queiroz has stated that he would like to give more playing time to some of his younger players, has set the stage for a compromise, where Shojaei, Haj Safi and some other older players will take a break from Team Melli for a short while.
Queiroz is a loyal person and has very strong personal relationships with his players, so he will have to go to Athens and meet face-to face with Shojaei and Haj Safi and explain his decision.
Otherwise things can unravel very quickly on different fronts.