Iran Blocks Transfer Of Nekounam Over Tensions Regarding UAE League Rebranding
Iran "has barred national football team captain Javad Nekounam's lucrative transfer to a club in neighbouring UAE because of a dispute over a name," according to the AFP. Nekounam finalized a deal with newly promoted club Sharjah. Iran Football Federation President Ali Kafashian said that the move -- reportedly worth more than $2M -- "has been blocked by Iranian authorities." Kafashian said, "We had to stop him from joining the Emirati league." He added Nekounam would be compensated with an unspecified amount which "we will ask the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) to allocate." He did not elaborate why Nekounam had been "denied permission" to join Sharjah, but Iranian media said the decision was taken to stop the veteran int'l from playing in the UAE's newly renamed "Arabian Gulf League," a rebranding which has stirred tensions. Historically sensitive toward territorial issues, Iran insists on calling the body of water the "Persian Gulf." The Arab countries of the oil-rich region meanwhile insist on the term "Arabian Gulf" or simply "the Gulf" (AFP, 7/21).