Iran have named their former star striker Ali Daei as the new coach of the national team in a shock move that ended a months-long search for a new gaffer. Daei, the leading scorer in international football history, had been mooted last month as an outside choice to lead the Team Melli to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ but the focus had been on the candidacy of Iranian-American Afshin Qotbi.
"After examining Ali Daei's plans, he was officially named as head coach of the national team," ISNA quoted the Iranian football federation's head Ali Kafashian as saying. "Initial talks were held with Ali Daei over the past days and today we held a meeting with him where he submitted his plans to the federation," he added.
Iran made a poor start to their South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign last month by only drawing with minnows Syria. Daei will now be charged with preparing the team for their next qualifier, which is against Kuwait on 26 March.
"He will bring all his plans for the national team and do his best at the level of head coach, like he did when he was one of the world's best players," Kafashian told state television. "Tomorrow he starts his work as head coach and he has full authority. His chief plan is to take the team to the World Cup."
Daei, whose career included spells at Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin, is unquestionably Iran's most famous footballer ever and still holds the record as the top goal-scorer in international football. He only retired fully from playing last year and until now has coached Tehran club side Saipa, who he led to to the Iranian league title as a player-coach.
Daei scored a record 109 international goals in 148 appearances, outstripping greats like Pele and Ferenc Puskas, although admittedly against less demanding opponents. Daei played a part in Iran's greatest match - the 2-1 win over USA at France 1998 - and was once named the Asian Footballer of the Year.