Sanctions choking Iran's progress, says coach Queiroz

Alastair Himmer

Melbourne (AFP) - Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has voiced anger and frustration at how international sanctions are damaging his plans to build the team's future.

The three-times Asian Cup champions began their bid for a first title in 39 years with an impressive 2-0 victory over Bahrain in Melbourne on Sunday, but Queiroz told AFP it was wrong that Iran's young footballers were being "victimised" by politics.

"It's been very difficult," the former Portugal and Real Madrid manager said. "We suffer a lot to prepare friendly games and to move internationally to prepare the team and players. After the World Cup the situation is getting worse and worse.

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"The players are victimised by the limitations of the sanctions."

Sanctions imposed on Iran since its nuclear programme became public in 2002 have crippled its economy.

Queiroz complained that the knock-on effects were hampering his plans, and accused FIFA of not releasing up to $8 million in appearance money owed from last year's World Cup in Brazil.

"The situation is worse because the money is stuck," said Queiroz, who took the Iran job in 2011. "It's stuck in FIFA and stuck in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation)."

Queiroz's side managed to play only two friendlies in the run-up to the Asian Cup, against South Korea last November and Iraq earlier this month.

"When we come to a competition like this, we have 80 million people dreaming about the team's expectations, 80 million people supporting the team," said the 61-year-old, who has brought a squad with several untested players to Australia. "But we can't play because we don't have the chance.

"Korea and Iraq did us a big favour, paying some of their expenses. When you come to this tournament (you see) it's not about fair play. For those who always talk about fair play, there is no fair play.

"Fair play is to give opportunities to these kids to play international matches, to learn as all players deserve. It's part of the FIFA spirit that politics should not interfere with the game.

"In order to change and really prepare the future of the Iranian national team, it's time we got the all-clear from directors and the people that can help," he added. "Iran cannot progress and it's not fair for sport people, football players."

Charged with rebuilding an Iran team put on the map by players such as Mehdi Mahdavikia and Ali Karimi, Queiroz's frustration was palpable.

"Without support they cannot progress," he shrugged. "At the end of the day when you don't have resources to play games, it's not fair for football, not fair for the young players of Iran."

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