In an interview with rahnam News Agency’s sports reporter, Khodadad Azizi discussed the conditions of Iran’s national football team, criticisms of Iran’s performance in the match with Uzbekistan in the preliminary stage of the 2026 World Cup and…
* rahnam: What about the latest situation of the national team?
The national team is currently closed, but overall the team’s conditions are good.
* rahnam: Iran’s performance against Uzbekistan in its second game in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers was met with many criticisms…
We did not have a good second half against Uzbekistan. Our team was bad and if any criticism was raised, it was right. We had two different halves against Uzbekistan. We had almost no chances in the second half.
* rahnam: Did you talk to the players about why they suddenly played poorly?
We played a poor game and the Uzbeks were in the game and could even win, but this happens in football.
* rahnam: Some experts and veterans said they are worried about the state of the national team in the Asian Nations Cup. Do you see these criticisms as fair?
What exactly are some of these experts worried about? The last championship of the national team was 50 years ago, and now considering the progress of teams like Japan, how should we expect a championship? Experts or veterans who are worried about the championship of the national team, why were they not worried about the championship during the time of Carlos Queiroz? We gave the national team two seasons at the disposal of an experienced coach, but we were eliminated and did not reach the finals. During the time of Branko Ivankovic and Blazovic, we did not become champions either. It is not very logical for experts to expect and worry about the national team’s championship.
The national team has tried to win the championship in all periods, but it has not been successful. This period is the hardest of all periods, because it is Japanese, which is scary. South Korea has a dangerous front line. Saudi Arabia and Australia are good teams. The veterans know that it is difficult to be a hero in this situation. Some of them are not worried about the national team becoming the champion and they are trying to attack if Iran does not become the champion. Tim Omid is 50 years old, nothing happened and nothing happened this time either, did something happen? When the junior, youth and Omid teams are not in good condition, the senior national team will not be in good condition either. We have two or three players in the first level of football, but the Japanese have 20 players, and South Korea has 10 players at the top level who play in Bayern Munich, Tottenham, etc. Japan has a legionary. It is not correct to compare. Teams like Japan are at the forefront. I don’t care which of our players or theirs is good in terms of quality, I’m talking about the number of legionnaire players. Some people have zoomed that the national team should become the champion. The national team will definitely try, but we should not expect to win the championship.
* rahnam: So it is not right to expect a championship from the national team? Because the veterans point out that there is a golden generation in the national team and these players can become champions of the Asian Nations Cup.
This is also an opinion for itself, but I said that it is not correct to compare. I gave a clear example and said that some people compare Lionel Messi and Maradona, but it is wrong because their era and form of football were different. Today, coaches’ and players’ thinking, tactics, etc. are different. If there is a discussion of comparing Messi and Maradona, their lives should also be compared, were their lives the same? Maradona’s view was sometimes political, but Messi does not have such a view. Talking about this generation and that generation is mischief. Those who do this are not few. By saying that the national team with the current generation should win the championship, these people push it forward to attack the head coach and players if it does not win the championship. The national team is for everyone and not for the Football Federation and Amir Ghalenoui. Attacking is not a good thing. I am not saying these words because I am a member of the national team’s technical staff. I may not be with the national team from the next camp, but I have to tell the facts. If there is any criticism, I must say it, but it is not right to attack the national team that won the Nations Cup. There is no such thing as “should” in football. If we were to expect a championship, it was the best time for the Kierosh period. For whatever reason, we did not reach the final of the Asian Nations Cup. The generation they are talking about was at the time of Keirosh and not much has changed, so how is it now the golden generation? During Keirosh’s time, there were players like Ashkan Dezhageh, Masoud Shojaei, etc. Again, I say these words because I am a member of the national team’s technical staff, and I may not be part of the next camp of the national team. I hope I can convince Ghalenoi that I will not be with the national team from the next camp.
* rahnam: There were criticisms of your presence in the technical staff of the national team, and some claimed that Khodadad Azizi was joking and laughing with the players during training. Are these talks one of the reasons for your resignation?
It has nothing to do with these issues. If I joke and laugh with the kids of the national team, it’s because I’m feeling good. I have a very good relationship with the members of the national team and the players. You must have played in the national team to know how to deal with national team players. I have a good relationship with the elders of the team, including Ehsan Hajsafi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Tarimi, and Sardar Azmoun, to youngsters like Hosseinnejad, Hizbavi, etc., and I even tried to establish a good relationship with Omid Ebrahimi, who returned to the national team after a long time. . This is my way of being friendly with the players. If I get naked next to the national team and enter the field, it’s because I feel good. When I’m feeling good, I strip down, put on my gym clothes, and hit the floor. I feel good with these players, with whom I joke and laugh. They don’t get upset by my jokes and I don’t get upset by their jokes and laughter.
* rahnam: Are you upset by these criticisms?
No, I don’t care. Some people who are not normal people create illusions and say why Goddad has become naked and entered the earth as a consultant. They expect me to go into the field in a suit! My job is football. I am the technical advisor of the head coach of the national team, and what is wrong with the technical advisor taking off his clothes? My job is football and I have so many photos in shorts and sports shirts, you can see how many photos I have in sports clothes with a search on the Internet, why shouldn’t I go to the middle of the field? I have to criticize Mohammad Mohebi or transfer from other players, especially if I see something in the attack line. If I don’t do this, then what’s the point? These words are not important to me and I wanted to defend the national team. They deliberately say that the national team should become the champion of the Asian Nations Cup.
* rahnam: So what is the reason for your withdrawal from the national team?
I made such a decision because of myself and personal issues. If I am not with the national team from the next camp, I will still tell the facts. The national team has a chance to win the Nations Cup, because it is not very difficult on the way to the finals, but if the championship is not won, nothing has happened. Don’t excite and attack the national team by saying “golden generation”. Some people think they are smart, but they are not. I am sure that the players of the national team will go to Qatar for the championship, but I repeat, even if they don’t win, nothing happened because a team like Japan is ahead of Iran in terms of structure and everything. Saudi Arabia and Australia have progressed. What do we have to put pressure on the national team players?! If the national team does not have the first chance to win the championship, it has a great chance after Japan. I hope the national team makes it to the finals and if they don’t win, they haven’t lost anything like the previous two rounds!
* rahnam: Has Qalanewi agreed with your decision?
I didn’t talk to Qalanewi because I couldn’t tell him. I talked to one of Qalanewi’s relatives and asked him to convey the matter to him. I am not from Rudarabaisti, but I have compliments for Qalanewi. I have a good memory with Qalanewi, but I can’t contact him. I’m tired and I don’t really want to continue the collaboration. Ghalenoui is also not well and I hope he recovers soon. He was upset after the game against Uzbekistan and I couldn’t call him.
* rahnam: Ali Daei recently said that the national team did not receive a reward for participating in the 1998 World Cup in France. Was no reward given?
After the World Cup, they gave us a car transfer so that we could import the car into the country or sell it. We were responsible for customs and tax money, and because they didn’t spend, they sold all their remittances for 25 million tomans. What Ali Daei meant was that if they gave a remittance to the players today, the customs money and… have been forgiven. I remember that I brought my car from Germany to Iran to get a license plate here, but I had to pay exactly three times the price of the car for the license plate, that’s why I returned the car.
* rahnam: The golden generation in Iranian football was discussed, Daei said that the 1998 national team was more popular than the current generation…
I have not discussed these issues. You had to play with my uncle to know what a different person he is in football. Daei is Iran’s football birth certificate and it should be said without compliments. We are talking about football, but in terms of popularity, people have to have an opinion. I can talk about the likes of Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, etc., but I don’t agree with making comparisons and I don’t like to talk about it. Let me just say that he is no longer like an uncle in Iranian football.
An interview with Morteza Zahiri
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