Iran elects new chief to defuse row with FIFA

January 9, 2008

TEHRAN, Jan 9 (Reuters) - The Iranian Football Federation (FFI) on Wednesday elected a new president in a move aimed at ending a row with FIFA over political meddling in Iranian football affairs, local media reported.

'Ali Kafashian, as the sole candidate, was approved...after the pro-government candidate withdrew his nomination on Tuesday night,' Iran's ISNA news agency said.

The election was supervised by representatives of soccer's world governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

FIFA and the AFC had refused to let a politician take the post, arguing that it would amount to government interference in Iranian football and contravene international regulations.

FIFA and the FFI had long been at odds over the country's refusal to exclude members of the state-run Physical Education Organisation, headed by Iran's vice president Mohammad Aliabadi, from running in its presidential election.

Aliabadi withdrew from the race last month under orders from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran sought to defuse the row.

Another pro-government candidate, Shahrokh Shahnazi, withdrew on Tuesday, paving the way for Kafashian's unopposed run.

The vote was initially scheduled for Dec 6 but was postponed after FIFA said it would not recognise the result.

Kafashian's first task should be appointing the new national team coach as Iran's first World Cup qualification game will be on Feb 6 against Syria in Damascus.

Shortly after his election, Kafashian said there had been no final decision yet on who would take the coach's job.

'The FFI transitional committee has proposed (Portuguese Artur) Jorge as new coach ... but nothing is clear yet as the issue should first be evaluated by an experts team,' ISNA quoted Kafashian as saying.