AFC hopeful Iran will follow 'road map' to lift ban

November 24, 2006

SINGAPORE, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) expressed hope on Friday that Iran would follow a 'road map' drawn up by soccer's world governing body to lift its ban for state meddling in its national game.

FIFA suspended Iran from 'all international activities' on Wednesday because of government interference in running the game, just five months after it took part in the World Cup finals and a week after qualifying for next year's Asian Cup.

A FIFA Emergency Committee laid down a 'road map' for the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) to follow in order to see the suspension lifted.

AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam said he was optimistic Iran would agree to FIFA's demands and keep its place in the Asian Cup - Asia's equivalent of the European Championships - for which Iran are one of the favourites.

'We hope that they (IRIFF) accept the terms for the betterment of football so that the relevant teams can participate in the top competitions in Asia,' he said in a statement on the AFC website.

Under the agreement, Iran must accept a Normalisation Committee set up by FIFA and the AFC, and draft new statutes in line with FIFA regulations.

It must also hold fresh elections for the post of IRIFF president, which AFC and FIFA will supervise.

An Iranian news agency said Iran rejected the suspension, which it described as 'completely illegitimate'. Fans in the soccer-mad country were stunned.

The AFC and FIFA had given Iran a deadline of Nov. 15 to reinstate elected President Dr Mohammed Dadgan, one of a number of officials ousted since controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swept to power.

Several high-profile managers and coaches have been replaced since Ahmadinejad, a huge soccer fan, won the presidential race in 2005.

Iran are the second country to face such action in the space of a month after Kenya were suspended for failing to respect signed agreements and fix recurrent problems its soccer federation.