ZURICH, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Iran has been suspended from all international soccer activity because of government interference in running the game in the country, world ruling body FIFA said on Thursday.
The move comes just five months after Iran took part in the World Cup finals in Germany and a week after they secured a place in the 2008 Asian Cup finals, winning their qualifying group by beating South Korea 2-0 in Tehran.
An Iranian news agency said Iran did not accept the decision and decribed it as 'completely illegitimate'. Fans in the soccer-mad country were stunned.
'I am totally shocked because I love football and I always follow the Iranian national soccer squad with 100 percent enthusiasm,' said Hassan Alizad, a 43-year-old driver, who had revelled in Iran's success at reaching the Asian Cup finals.
'It will break a streak of honours,' he said.
Mohsen Jamali, a 45-year-old barber and football fanatic, said: 'I feel injured at hearing this news...I still hope that somehow the decision will be reversed.'
FIFA's Emergency Committee, composed of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and one representative of each of the six FIFA confederations took the decision at a meeting on Wednesday.
In a statement FIFA said they had decided to 'suspend the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) from all international activity due to government interference in football matters and violation of Article 17 of the FIFA Statutes.'
Article 17 relates to the independence of FAs free of any government interference.
The FIFA statement continued: 'The FIFA Emergency Committee took this decision after determining that the IRIFF was not adhering to the principles of the FIFA Statutes regarding the independence of member associations, the independence of the decision-making process of the football governing body in each country and the way in which changes in the leadership of associations are brought about.'
FIFA is demanding the establishment of an IRIFF Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It also wants the IRIFF to draft new statutes and organise new elections.
'Iran will definitely not accept the decision. FIFA wants to put pressure on Iranian football,' Iran's Mehr News Agency quoted an informed source as saying, describing the move as 'completely illegitimate'.
In August 2006, FIFA and the AFC gave the Iranian federation a deadline of Nov.15 to reinstate elected president Mohammad Dadkan and to comply with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Statutes.
As this deadline was not met, Iran has been suspended.
A former Iranian federation employee, who left with Dadkan, said: 'When they appoint a person who knows nothing about sports as the head of physical education (Dadkan's boss) this is the result.'
'This shows (Iran's) mismanagement,' the former employee, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Iran are the second country to face such action in the space of a month. Kenya were suspended on Oct. 24 for failing to respect signed agreements and for recurrent problems in its soccer federation.
'When (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad won the elections, they started to change all the managers including football managers. This is the result of having inexperienced people,' said football fan Reza, who asked not to be identified further.
Ahmadinejad won the presidential race in 2005 and has replaced many officials in a range of institutions since taking office, drawing criticism from opponents who say the new appointments are often inexperienced.