By Farrokh Hesabi

Time to privatize Esteghlal, Persepolis

October 3, 2020 - 15:59

TEHRAN - While Esteghlal have been eliminated from the 2020 AFC Champions League, losing to Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 2-1 in the Round of 16, the sense of chaos and uncertainty at the Tehran based seems to be more noticeable. Much of it is self-inflicted.

The Iranian giants have been engaged in controversies in recent weeks, and the team’s players and managers are under huge pressure after they didn’t live up to fans’ expectations.

Esteghlal board of directors decided to sack general manager Ahmad Saadatmand on Wednesday following his fiery comments about some of the team’s players.

In a video message, Saadatmand had criticized some Esteghlal players for indiscipline and promised to reform the club.

He questioned the players' commitment and sense of responsibility by revealing that some of them had slept until noon during the Champions League competitions underway in Qatar, and some others had been active on social media till after midnight.

Now Esteghlal are in a weird condition; the club have neither a general manager nor a head coach!

The team's foreign players, such as Cheick Diabate and Hrvoje Milic, seek to terminate their contracts due to the club's inability to pay their salaries.

This leads us to question what went wrong within the club which has weekend them since Esteghlal have quality players at their disposal.

It seems that the solution to get Esteghlal out of the crisis is the privatization of the club. Iran’s Ministry of Sport and Youth owns two major clubs of Iran, Persepolis, and Esteghlal. The Ministry of Sport and Youth also chooses the Persepolis and Esteghlal's board of directors and general managers. The supporters of these clubs and the experts are asking for privatization for many years.

The managers who are appointed by the Ministry of Sports are often criticized by football fans and experts and are negatively titled as “government managers” who do not deserve to run big clubs such as Esteghlal and Persepolis.

Recently, the Iranian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Masoud Soltanifar has confirmed that the country’s most popular football teams Esteghlal and Persepolis will be ceded to the private sector by auction.

It can be the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the two clubs. Ceding to the private sector means that the clubs’ managers will no longer be appointed through the Ministry of Sports, but they will be elected by the process of presidential elections in which the fans and shareholders can play their role. The elected general manager will be committed to respond to the fans in any situation.

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