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Let's be realistic
We will not make it to the World Cup

By Farhad Rostam
August 15, 2001
The Iranian

Some of you die-hard fans will be mad at me after you will read this piece, but truth always hurts. The Iranian soccer team currently being arranged and coached by the Croatian, Miroslav Blazevitch (excuse the spelling if it's incorrect) is really a microcosm of Iranian society. The best characteristics of the team members are as follows: No siscipline, unfamiliar with structured organization, no concept of teamwork, no respect for the coach, wanting to earn money at any cost in a foreign club, and a delusional sense of self-grandiose.

If you look at any Iranian sports magazines these days, the first thing that will capture your attention is the constant news about the infighting among players, and management in the top two league teams of Esteghlal and Persepolis, and also the national team. The second thing that you will notice will be news about the possibility of a player being hired by a foreign team, and how much that player's contract may be worth.

Often these rumors are bogus and incorrect, planted by the player himself or his agents, in order to create a market for his next season. You will also be exposed to many articles quoting the players' complaints regarding lack of payments by their clubs. All in all the picture of a sick national soccer team will emerge.

In the second round of preliminary World Cup matches in Asia, and Iran will be in the same group with:

* Saudi Arabia (In Tehran on 08/24/01 & in Jeddah on 09/28/01)
* Bahrain (In Tehran on 09/14/01 & in Manama on 10/19/01)
* Iraq (In Tehran on 10/12/01 & in Baghdad on 09/07/01)
* Thailand (In Tehran on 10/05/01 & in Bangkok on 09/01/01)

After spending close to a month in camps in Austria, and Croatia, and playing warm up games against second and third-rate teams, the Iranian national team went to Qatar this week. The team played a friendly game on Wednesday night against that small island nation (an island in the Persian Gulf with a population in the hundreds of thousands, not even a million). The result, a 2-1 loss, may have shocked some fans, but I was expecting even worse. After all this is not a team with a depth and organizational structure, and no coach can instill discipline, teamwork, and proper work ethics in its members. That should come from childhood, proper upbringing, proper schools, and properly managed teams. Unfortunately our players lack any and all of the above.

When I look at Iran's four group opponents, each one is a much better than Qatar. All Western sports writers note that Saudi Arabia has the best chance in becoming the top team in this group. But wait a minute, have you seen Iraq's recent matches? They are a power to be reckoned with in Asia, and they will give the Saudis a run for their money to be the best in this group.

How about Thailand? Last week they narrowly lost to Manchester United (1-2). Even Manchester Manager Ferguson praised the Thai team for its great composure, and teawork. Bahrain is also a formidable foe. If you may recall, even lowly Bahrain beat us a few months ago.

Unfortunately, except for some random bursts of good personal techniques by a few players, the Iranian national team will have nothing to offer to its 70 million die-hard fans. I understand how much we all want to see Iran in another World Cup. But let's be realistic and not raise our hopes. I will be happy even if Iran becomes the second best team in its group. But the chances even for that are slim to none, and slim is overly optimistic.

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