Ali Parvin, a veteran of Persepolis Club and a former player and head coach of the Iranian national football team, has supported Ebrahim Raeesi for president. (Supplied)

By Payam Younesipour

June 18, 2021

In a video released June 16, Ali Parvin, a veteran of Persepolis football team and a former player and retired head coach of the Iranian national team, has backed Ebrahim Raeesi for president, saying he is the “righteous candidate” in the 2021 presidential election.

Parvin, 74, became a political celebrity early in his footballing career, first during the regime of the former Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and then in the Islamic Republic after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

There are pictures of Parvin standing in Sadabad Palace next to Heshmatollah Mohajerani, a head coach of the Iranian national football team in the 1970s, with the young Reza Pahlavi, the crown prince of the Pahlavi regime. But a few months later another picture of him was taken on Enghelab (“Revolution”) Street, in which he appeared, now bearded like the revolutionaries, with his fist raised as part of the crowd’s chants against the Pahlavi family.

In 1993, when Parvin was Iran’s head coach, the team was fighting to reach the 1994 World Cup, playing the qualifiers round in Doha, Qatar.

Parvin’s Iran team defeated Japan at the qualifiers which revived their hopes of reaching the World Cup. When the referee blew the final whistle, the players began celebrating inside the locker room. Thirty minutes after the game, the team was still in the locker room, rejoicing, when there was a knock on the door. They opened the door and a large flower basket appeared. “This is from the Crown Prince [Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah of Iran] for your victory,” the courier said. Parvin was overjoyed by the gesture, accepting the flowers, and making positive statements about the former crown prince.

Parvin then disappeared for three years from the sports and football scene. He himself had said that Mohammad Malyeli Kohan, his assistant, had after his statement reported him to the Islamic Republic authorities. But in 2000, when he was back on the scene, Parvin told this correspondent: “Now the one who sold me out in Qatar is begging me to [again] be my assistant.” In the same interview, he said that “my opponents are now my most important supporters.”

Parvin was referring to the family of Iran’s former president, the late Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ali Parvin’s return to football was thanks to the efforts of Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent political figure in her own right, and the former president’s daughter, during the management of Mostafa Hashemi Taba of the Physical Education Organization. In the late 1991s, Parvin developed good relations with Jamaran as well as Hashemi Rafsanjani’s family.

The late Nasser Hejazi, in spite of all the cultural, political, ideological and social disagreements he had with Ali Parvin, said something significant about Parvin: “He is the best predictor I have ever seen in my life. But only on the football field.”

But in politics, he has not been such a good player. Parvin’s most important political challenge was the full support he gave Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the 2005 presidential election.

Parvin participated in almost all of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s propaganda rallies and tried to pour the votes of his supporters and Persepolis fans to Rafsanjani, who was campaigning against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; of course, Ahmadinejad won the election.

The most important statement Parvin made in the second round of the presidential election was the key to his sporting life in the early 2000s. “If Hashemi is not elected, I will leave the sport,” he told the Sports News newspaper. He may have thought this threat would bring his supporters to the polls for Rafsanjani.

But his prediction came true. Less than six months after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Ali Parvin was permanently removed from the top tier of Iranian football. Mohammad Hassan Ansari-Fard, his former player and assistant, who became the CEO of Persepolis Club at the beginning of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, was responsible for exiling Parvin from the game.

Ali Parvin, with the historic phrase “Goodbye football, goodbye Persepolis,” prepared to leave football at the end of Persepolis’s match with Fajr Sepasi in Shiraz.

Four years later, ahead of Ahmadinejad’s reelection campaign, Parvin prepared himself for yet another political reinvention by joining Ahmadinejad’s campaign on the advice and pressure of those around him.

On the day Ahmadinejad went to Tehran’s Mosala to give a speech, Ali Parvin, along with figures such as Habib Kashani, Hamid Estili, Hossein Rezazadeh and several other athletes, announced his support for the president.

Ahmadinejad also wrote a letter to Ali Parvin, in which he said, “Persepolis Club should belong to you veterans as well,” in effect supporting the notion of Parvin becoming a part-owner of the club. Until the last day of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Ali Parvin went to the Ministry of Sports and Iran’s parliament with the same letter, making appeals, so that he might own a piece, a percentage, a share of Persepolis Club; but it never came to pass.

Parvin had lost the game. His reading of the political scene remained weak. In 2013, by which time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were gone, Parvin supported for Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf for president; of course, it was Hassan Rouhani who won.

Ali Parvin again captured attention when he said: “If we were to choose among slogans, everyone knows how to shout slogans; but you must realize that the person who turned the Pas team into champions was Mr. Ghalibaf.”

In March 2016, Ali Parvin, a football legend, but a loser in politics and a plaything of the politicians, resorted to the “Judge of Judges” of the Islamic Republic when he supported Sadegh Larijani for the Assembly of Experts elections.

His support for Sadegh Larijani seemed logical. Parvin – and his son – was under pressure from the Islamic Republic judiciary.

In July 2016, it was revealed that Mohammad Parvin, son of Ali Parvin, had in 2014 bought 25 billion tomans ($1.1 million) of rice and sugar from the State Trading Company of Iran through the Rangin Sofreh Company. But a loan used for the purchase was ever repaid. And the mortgage deed he had used for the security of the debt was also problematic.

Tasnim News Agency had claimed that Mohammad Parvin’s debt of 25 billion tomans had to be paid in three months, and considering the compensation for late payment and 2 percent interest, his debt has now reached more than 30 billion tomans.

A report released by IranWire on Mohammad Parvin’s corruption revealed that Parvin’s family had been in financial contact with government ministers from the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration until the end of Hassan Rouhani’s first term in office.

Now Ali Parvin had supported the “judge of the judges” of the Islamic Republic in the Assembly of Experts election. He has more recently said that the situation of sports in Iran will be “corrected” with the presidency of Mr. Raeesi. But his definition of this “correct” is slightly different from the real definition of the phrase.

Iran Wire

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.