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Iran soccer clubs feel pain of empty pockets

By Ashkan Kazemian, Press TV

As the global downturn takes its toll on the world economy, Iranian soccer clubs are entangled with a financial crisis of their own.

The crisis has affected big and small clubs alike, from Iranian Premier League (IPL) champion Persepolis to second division club Ararat, which belongs to the Armenian minority of Iran.

Azadi is among the few Iranian stadiums that measure up to international standards.

Players in some IPL clubs complain of long delays in their payment. Even Persepolis, a club backed by the Physical Education Organization (PEO), has not been immune to the crisis.

Senegalese player Ibrahima Toure severely criticized the Reds' management team for their lack of support for "a foreign player who has no other source of income except what the club pays him".

It is true that all the Iranian soccer clubs are more or less supported by government-related organizations. However, what has befallen Persepolis clearly indicates the dangers that may threaten smaller clubs.

IPL club Payam Mashhad's players abandoned training for more than a month after financial problems prevented the club from making any payments to them.

Ararat, which was founded in 1944 and is one of the oldest soccer clubs in Iran, has decided not to play in the second division for a season in an attempt to restructure the club which has been struggling with financial difficulties.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has made substantial changes to the Asian Champions League from the 2009 season. Iran, along with other Asian soccer superpowers such as South Korea and Japan, was allowed to have four clubs in the competition.

However, the Iranian clubs, unlike their South Korean and Japanese counterparts, do not seem to have met the qualifications the AFC has set for the newly-organized Champions League:

Firstly, few Iranian clubs have private stadiums and these private stadiums do not measure up to international standards.

Secondly, Iranian clubs receive no payments from TV channels which broadcast their matches. A contract has been signed between broadcasters and the Iranian Football Federation (IFF). However, the contract is only a formality signed upon the AFC's demand.

Soccer in Iran seems to lack the professionalism of other Asian countries, even that of the Persian Gulf Arab states, which, not long ago, lagged behind Iran.

In Iran, where the amount of neither the players' nor the managers' contracts are made public; where a sports program falls out of favor for criticizing the decisions of the IFF and PEO, the road to professionalism seems to be a long one.

... Payvand News - 01/31/09 ... --

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