South Korea protests Iranian visa bungle on coach

The Iran Government may be interefring in football again as South Korea will likely be without assistant coach Afshin Ghotbi for Wednesday's Asian Cup qualifier in Tehran. Iranian-born American citizan Ghotbi was not issued a visa to enter Iran when the embassy in Seoul issued visas to the rest of the Korean squad. Instead, the embassy claimed he would not need one as he held Iranian citizenship as well as American.

They did warn, however, that problems with his application might cause him difficulties leaving Iran after the match. "Assistant coach Afshin Ghotbi does not have to obtain a visa because he has dual citizenship from the US. and Iran. It doesn't make sense for us to issue a visa because he just needs his Iranian passport to enter the country," Alli Piri, counsellor at the Iranian Embassy, told Lee Jin-joo of Reuters. "He didn't have his Iranian passport with him at the time he sent his application through the Korea Football Association, so we offered to issue a new one but he didn't have the necessary documents or ID card," Piri said. "Naturally, we wanted to be supportive but he turned down our suggestions ... If he enters the country without his Iranian passport, it would be difficult for him to exit the country without it."

The Korean Football Association said it would take the matter further. "We are going to protest to the Asia Football Confederation about this. But if it doesn't work out in the end, we have no choice but to play without Ghotbi," KFA technical bureau director Kang Shin-woo told Reuters. "Since he has a US passport, that must have been the reason for its (the visa's) denial. I don't understand. This is a sports event which has the least connection with political disputes."

"I hope FIFA takes action against the Iranian Football Federation as I feel that it was responsible for me not being able to sit on the bench and do my job," Ghotbi told www.goal.com.

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