The Iranian army has told ill-fated international footballer Merhdad Pooladi, sent off in last week’s Asia Cup quarterfinal with Iraq, that he must do his military service or be dropped from the squad.
Pooladi, 27, a defender with Qatar’s Al-Shahaniya, had reportedly said he is happy to come home and do his 21 months of obligatory service but needs to negotiate an end to his contract.
Pooladi almost missed the trip to Australia in December for the competition because he had been found in possession of a false military card. These cards, issued when a man has completed his service, are essential for marrying, buying a home or obtaining a visa.
But Iran national coach Carlos Queiroz insisted that his participation was crucial, and Pooladi was allowed to travel.
In the end, all was for naught. Pooladi was sent off in the first half after receiving two yellow cards, and Iraq won 7-6 on a penalty shootout after the sides were tied 3-3 at the end of play.
General Moussa Kamali, the general staff officer responsible for manpower, said “we will use every legal means to bring Pooladi back to Iran so that he does his military service,” the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
“If he does not obey, he can say good-bye to the national selection.”
The Entekhab news site added that Kamali insisted that, if a court issued an order, the authorities would pursue Pooladi through Interpol and seek his extradition.
But Kamali also said Pooladi has apologised and has no problem with returning.
“The only problem is (the cancellation of) his contract” with the Qatari club. “Once that is done, he has promised to return.”
Of course, Pooladi has another option. Rather than do their service, men have the option of buying their way out and obtaining the military card.