Iran football fans vote against ban on popular TV presenter

January 27th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Tehran, Jan 27 (DPA) Following a dispute between the Iranian Football Federation (FFI) and a popular television presenter, football fans voted in favour of the presenter in a text message survey.Adel Ferdowsipour, the country’s most famous football commentator and presenter of the popular football programme 90, got into a dispute with the FFI earlier this month after he made critical remarks about the federation’s inefficiency in managing the football affairs.

The fans had eagerly waited for Monday to see whether the programme would be aired with Ferdowsipour or not.

Not only was the programme aired with the popular presenter, but Ferdowsipour even dared to conduct a text survey of viewers asking whether people were in favour or against the programme.

Within a few minutes, replies poured in, with 97 per cent voting in favour of the programme and de facto against the FFI and the sports organization. Although the programme was aired late at night, more than 2 million people sent messages.

“We hope that the officials will respect the people’s viewpoint and increase their tolerance,” Ferdowsipour commented on the result.

The Press TV reported on its website that the FFI, which is affiliated to the governmental sports organisation and run by a deputy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reacted to the critics by prohibiting football players and managers from appearing on 90 without prior permission.

Press TV quoted FFI deputy Mehdi Taj as saying that the TV programme’s criticism was unacceptable as it was direct interference in the federation’s affairs.

Ferdowsipour had especially angered FFI officials after he sarcastically questioned the naming of the FFI as the best federation in Asia in 2008, Press TV said.

There had even been speculation that Ferdowsipour and his TV programme would be banned.

The majority of the local sports press and fans however unanimously voiced solidarity with Ferdowsipiur, and banners were seen in stadiums in favour of the presenter and against a probable ban by the FFI.

It was the first time in Iran that the viewers themselves decided whether a TV programme should be aired or not.

Football experts say that one of the main problems for the FFI is the constant demand by national team head coach Ali Daei of stopping the premier league for the sake of national games, including friendlies.

The managers of the premier league clubs have constantly protested against the rather long breaks - once two weeks for a training camp and less important friendly games - but Daei has so far succeeded in imposing his will on the FFI.

The fans joined the protest, and for the first time in Iranian football history, an official national football game - the Asia qualification match against Singapore earlier this month - drew fewer than 1,000 people to Tehran’s Azadi stadium, which has a capacity of 100,000.

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