Team Melli 2019 Update and a Tribute to Carlos Queiroz

Special to the Persian Observer, By Omid Emam

Carlos Queiroz resigned as Team Melli’s coach after eight very successful years.

February 13, 2019

Carlos Queiroz has resigned as the coach of Team Melli. In the Asian Cup we saw Iran as the most dominant and most impressive team in the tournament. Unfortunately they do not hand the cup to the team for being dominant or impressive. The cup is handed to the team that wins it’s last four games after advancing to the knockout stages. It is very sad that Iran were eliminated by Japan in the Asian Cup, as they deserved much more for their efforts. Now one must ask why did we come up short once again. But before we get to that Let’s talk about what Carlos did for our team and the changes he made to our team.

#1) Unlike previous generations and previous coaches if we had a suspended or injured player we would get blown out by a 2nd or 3rd rate team. I am sure many sadly remember our golden generation of players missing out of the 2002 world cup after a 3-0 loss to Bahrain as we were missing Mehrdad Minavand or the game against Yugoslavia in the 1998 World Cup where Asia’s Eagle, Ali Abedzadeh was recovering from injury and Nima Nakisa was in goal instead. In contrast, this Team Melli was missing their best defensive midfielder Saeed Ezatolahi due to an injury. Ali Karimi, the second choice defensive midfielder was also missing this Asian Cup. Another very talented player missing from action was Ali Gholizadeh. Three key players were missing from this squad, yet we were the most dominant team. How is that possible? Eight years at the hands of Iran’s best coach led to a very deep team. We had Omid Ebrahimi fill in for our defensive midfield who played extremely well. Our team has several players for each position. In fact the team was so stacked that poor Kaveh Rezaei didn’t make the final list. So one very important change under Carlos Queiroz was the depth of the team

#2) Many may remember Ali Karimi kicking the water bottle when getting subbed out in the 2006 World Cup with Branko as our coach. Ali Daei would say players would look him in the eye and would not pass him the ball. There wasn’t any unity to our team back then. Ali Daei, the legend and record holder for most international goals, was forced to sit out Iran’s game against Portugal. That team lacked discipline, there wasn’t any team spirit. Insert Carlos and see the difference. During the 2014 World Cup preparations, Hadi Aghili and Medhi Rahmati, two of Iran’s starting 11 were questioning our beloved coach. Carlos made a very tough decision and left them out of the squad. He showed that no player is above the team and that he is the boss. We all saw Rahman Ahmadi make a very important double save and Alireza Haghighi had a great performance for us in goal at the 2014 World Cup. We obviously didn’t miss Rahmati. Carlos is a genius. He had Javad Nekounam as his eyes and ears in the locker room to diffuse any tension, a role which fell on the shoulders of one of my favorite players and current team captain, Masoud Shojaee after Javad’s retirement. Masoud hardly had any playing time in the World Cup or this Asian Cup, yet he hasn’t complained and has remained professional. Carlos brought professionalism, discipline and unity to our team. Another important contribution that Carlos made has been that he has fought and worked hard for his players. He paid attention to every little detail. Having proper uniforms, hotel rooms with nice views and every little detail to make sure his players focus is on the pitch and not on worrying about clothes or their hotel room, etc. Our coach’s dedication and standing up for his players has led to every player believing in him and trusting him and fighting with all of their ability for him and their country. You could see the mutual love and respect between our coach and players, something that was lacking in recent times prior to Carlos

#3) Iran only had Azadi Stadium that was available for Team Melli to practice which was up to international standards. However, the field was shared with Esteghlal and Persepolis and was not exclusively for our Team Melli. One of the very few instructions that the Iran Football Federation finally listened to was the creation of a facility for Team Melli practices that is up to international standards. Carlos did all of this with tons of opposition and plenty of public criticism. Carlos would work hard to make preparation plans and propose camps to prepare our players. We also lacked adequate Friendly Matches. We didn’t have any recent match against a high quality opponent. Sadly, we didn’t make full use of the Portuguese coach’s full potential as he and our players lacked the proper resources to adequately prepare for high pressure matches like our game against Japan. Mental preparedness and emotional stability come with time and practice which require high quality friendly matches. Our players are constantly arguing with the referee and we sadly saw Iran give up a goal when five players charged the referee in the Japan game and left the space open for the samurai to take advantage which they did. Players must play the whistle and at most only two players should be approaching the referee, the captain and the player involved in the incident.

I for one am very grateful and thankful to Carlos for eight wonderful years and wish him the best of luck. His results are exceptional given the lack of resources he and our players were given. I am proud of our players for giving it their all. Not always will we get a fairy tale ending like knocking out Australia to make it to the World Cup. Results come from planning and preparation, something Carlos said since day one, which unfortunately wasn’t delivered. Carlos was only offered a 6 month extension after the wonderful showing in the World Cup against giants Portugal and Spain. Had it not been for some very controversial decisions, Iran could have advanced instead of Spain or Portugal. Carlos, I am grateful that you stayed another 6 months despite you deserving a long term contract. I thank you for loving our players and loving our country and creating eight years of wonderful memories despite the red tape. I was fortunate to see two wins from Azadi live during two World Cup qualifiers. As we say your place will always be empty on the sidelines as our coach. I know I speak for many Iranians, you will always have a special place in our hearts. Thank you Carlos.

Omid Emam is an Anesthesiologist and Soccer Blogger