By Payam Yunesipour
February 8, 2019
Iran’s Football Federation may have cheated the Iranian national team out of more than a million dollars it earned through qualifying for the last two World Cups, IranWire has learned.
Although the International Football Federation (FIFA) paid the team an amount awarded to all teams that qualify, the figures presented by the Iranian federation do not tally with FIFA’s own figures, and there are huge discrepancies between the two — over a million dollars.
“The Iranian National Team made $20 million from two consecutive ascents to FIFA World Cups in Brazil and Russia, but we have no idea where this money has gone,” Masoud Shojaei, captain of the national team, told reporters in early February.
The gap between the two amounts could be close to 1.307 million Swiss francs, the equivalent of over $1.306 million. So the number Shojaei cited was not quite accurate. FIFA had earmarked $8 million for Iran each time that the team advanced to the World Cup. All teams that qualified for the competition received the same amount, and although when referring to it, the media cites US dollars, the payment is calculated and paid in Swiss francs because FIFA is based in Switzerland. In any case, FIFA awarded Iran $16 million for playing in two World Cup games, not $20 million.
In November 2018, during the team’s second day of training in preparation for the Asian Cup in Dubai, players and technical staff alike suspended their Instagram accounts as a sign of protest against the alleged corruption and issued a joint statement. On November 12, Fars News Agency reported “united action by the players of the national team in protest against the football federation’s failure in paying its dues.”
On January 17, Carlos Queiroz, the manager for the Iranian National Football Team, told reporters: “People here [the national team] go hungry while a club flies first class to Japan.” Queiroz was referring to Persepolis FC, which he believes commands more respect from Iran’s Ministry of Sports and Youth than the national team does.
But on December 10, 2018, prior to Queiroz’s complaint to reporters, Tasnim News Agency had interviewed Ali Soleimani, the Iranian Football Federation’s treasurer, questioning him over the uncertainties surrounding FIFA payments over the last four years. Soleimani claimedthat all rewards received from FIFA had been used to pay for the expenses of the national team players and their training camps, including Graz in Austria and FC Lokomotiv in Russia in the run-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup [Persian link].
How Much Did “Misconduct” Cost?
But Soleimani also said something that fuelled further questions: “Around 1.5 Swiss francs — about the same amount that was spent on the cost of the World Cup — was paid to FIFA or was deducted from our account for various [instances of] misconduct. We were hit with heavy fines for misconduct.”
The misconduct cited by FIFA included “improper conduct among supporters,” “misconduct within the team” and “unauthorized persons in the field of play” during the 2016 game between Iran and Qatar, “the religious ceremony organized before the game and at half time” during the World Cup qualifiers against South Korea in 2016 and, again, “the pre-match ceremony with religious chants” in 2017 during the match against Syria.
According to Soleimani, 1.5 million Swiss francs were spent on the Iranian national football team’s World Cup expenses. But according to a report published by the sports website Varzesh-e Seh [Persian link] on February 5, 2018, Iran’s football federation has received an invoice for $2.5 million for using the camp owned by FC Lokomotiv Moscow before and during the 2018 FIFA World cup. Considering that in recent days the price difference between the US dollar and the Swiss franc has been less than one cent, it is reasonable to assume that the invoice amount published on February 5 is one million dollars more than what the football federation’s treasury had claimed.
And yet the real discrepancy lies with claims regarding the amount of the fines levied by FIFA against the football federation. On December 12, 2018, FIFA published on its website a detailed list of all misconduct carried out by its associated federations during 2016 and 2017 — ie, from the first day to the last day of the qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup. The list provides details regarding the games for which Iran was fined, what reasons the fines were levied, and the amount the team was fined:
1. Iran-Qatar, 2016: “Allowing unauthorized personnel to enter the field,” 40,000 Swiss francs.
2. Iran-South Korea, 2016: “use of a drone during the ceremony;” “religious ceremony organized before the game and at half time;” and “display of religious banners by the spectators,” 45,000 Swiss francs.
3. Iran-Syria, 2016: “improper conduct among spectators by throwing objects into the field,” 3,000 Swiss francs.
4. Iran-China, 2017: “improper conduct among spectators (letting off incendiary devices);” “overcrowded stadium” and “non-use of FIFA branding items,” 50,000 Swiss francs.
5. Iran-Uzbekistan, 2017: violation of flag display rules, 10,000 Swiss francs.
6. Iran-Syria, 2017: “pre-match religious ceremony with religious chants” and “improper conduct among spectators (throwing objects/water bottles)”, 45,000 Swiss francs.
The total for all six fines is 193,000 Swiss francs. According to the football federation’s treasurer, Iran was fined $1.5 million, or almost 1.502 million Swiss francs. So the question remains: Where did the missing 1.307 million Swiss francs go?
In his interview with Tasnim, Soleimani responded: “FIFA is still to pay Iran around two million dollars. Part of this money will be used to pay for previous national team training camps and part will pay for debts to hotels and travel agencies.”