Guam visa woes noth­ing to do with soc­cer: Iran coach

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN DUER­DEN

Iran coach Car­los Queiroz says the frus­tra­tions faced by the tiny Pa­cific is­land of Guam in ob­tain­ing visas to travel to Tehran for a World Cup qual­i­fier next month give just a glimpse of the prob­lems long faced by his team in ne­go­ti­at­ing in­ter­na­tional soc­cer.

Iran, Asia’s top-ranked soc­cer team, has been deal­ing with the ef­fects of Amer­i­can-led sanc­tions for years.

Those sanc­tions may even­tu­ally be eased un­der a United Na­tional Res­o­lu­tion passed in July, but Queiroz says there is no end in sight to the com­pli­ca­tions in­volved with be­ing in charge of Iran’s soc­cer team.

As well as the ab­sence of some western em­bassies in Tehran, the Ira­nian Football Fed­er­a­tion has strug­gled to gain ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional funds, hold over­seas train­ing camps and play wa rm up matches.

Iran also has visa prob­lems ahead of its Nov. 17 World Cup qual­i­fier in Guam.

Guam is an un­in­cor­po­rated U.S. ter­ri­tory and en­try re­quire­ments are the same as for any other U.S. des­ti­na­tion. How­ever, in a bid to boost tourism, the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment has im­ple­mented a Guam-only visa-waiver pro­gram tries.

“The sit­u­a­tion is very com­plex be­cause Guam play un­der the um­brella of the United States, but this is football,” Queiroz told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It is very dif­fi­cult for us to find a way to get visas for our play­ers be­cause Guam de­mands the list 60 days in ad­vance.

Not only that, all the play­ers must go the Amer­i­can Em­bassy but there is none in Iran,” he added. “So the ques­tion is: how can I find a way to re­lease play­ers from their club du­ties to spend three or four days in a for­eign coun­try to get the visas? We are in trou­ble.”

Queiroz, who took Por­tu­gal to the 2010 World Cup and Iran to Brazil 2014, wants the Asian Football Con­fed­er­a­tion to step in and find a res­o­lu­tion to the prob­lem.

“The AFC should come across and, once they ac­cept Guam to play in this com­pe­ti­tion, they must be clear with the rules,” the Por­tuguese coach said. “Guam must find a way not to force the Ira­nian play­ers to spend three or four days to get a visa in a pe­riod when the clubs don’t re­lease the play­ers so this is a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion for us.”

If no other so­lu­tion presents

for most Asian coun- it­self, Queiroz, a for­mer coach of Real Madrid, is ready to use what should be train­ing time be­fore an Oc­to­ber qual­i­fier against Oman to se­cure the visas.

“This is what we have at the mo­ment. In­stead of pre­par­ing for the game with Oman we will in­stead have to go to Tur­key or the (United Arab Emi­rates) in­stead and go to get the visas to play against Guam which is a bizarre sit­u­a­tion.”

Guam has sim­i­larly com­plained of its prob­lems ob­tain­ing the proper doc­u­men­ta­tion to en­ter Iran for its Sept. 3 qual­i­fier de­spite, ac­cord­ing to the Guam Football As­so­ci­a­tion, start­ing the visa ap­pli­ca­tion process in June.

“Any visa or lo­gis­ti­cal mat­ters are be­ing han­dled by my ex­ec­u­tive and pres­i­dent Richard Lai and they are ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with it,” Guam coach Gary White told As­so­ci­ated Press. “As far as I’m con­cerned, we are play­ing in Iran on Sept. 3 un­til told oth­er­wise. My fo­cus is on the team and the prepa­ra­tion of the team. We are ex­cited and mo­ti­vated and are look­ing for­ward to what should be a great test.”

Guam, un­der its English coach, has won both games so far in the sec­ond round of qual­i­fi­ca­tion and sits on top of its group.

The is­land of just 170,000 peo­ple has climbed to 146 in FIFA’s world rank­ings and is one of Asia’s most im­proved teams, but play­ing Iran is as test­ing off the field as on.

These are prob­lems Iran should be ac­cus­tomed to. Years of sanc­tions af­fected the abil­ity of the IFF to ac­cess funds from world gov­ern­ing body FIFA and the AFC, and there­fore pay for fa­cil­i­ties or or­ga­nize train­ing camps over­seas.

The can­cel­la­tion of the rel­a­tively few friendly matches ar­ranged for the team have been a com­mon oc­cur­rence over the years.

Af­ter the 2014 World Cup, dur­ing which Iran gave a good show­ing de­spite earn­ing a sin­gle point from three games, Queiroz ex­plained that he was ready to leave but was per­suaded to stay by a fed­er­a­tion that be­lieves the sit­u­a­tion will change.

“It was my hope that things could change and that we could have the right con­di­tions to pre­pare the team for the World Cup in Rus­sia,” he said. “The fed­er­a­tion board still be­lieves that with the end of the sanc­tions there is now a chance to put some­thing in place to change the sit­u­a­tion. Let’s see. I have this per­cep­tion that things will not hap­pen in the short term.”

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