0656 GMT May 25, 2022
Iran and new head coach Mehdi Mahdavikia will embark on a new chapter on Monday when their campaign at the AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers gets underway.
Mahdavikia’s men will take on Nepal in Group B of the qualifiers – which also features group host Tajikistan and Lebanon.
Thirty-nine teams – across 11 groups – will be vying for 15 available spots to join host Uzbekistan at the AFC U23 Asian Cup in June 2022, which will also serve as the qualification tournament for the football competitions at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Highly admired as one of the greatest in recent history of the Iranian football, Mahdavikia, in his managerial debut, is tasked with bringing an end to the country’s 48-year wait for a berth at the Summer Olympics.
Iran reached the quarterfinals in Montreal 1976, before being knocked out by the Soviet Union.
Following his retirement in 2013, Mahdavikia dedicated his career to youth-level football, working as a coach with German side Hamburg, where he is considered a club legend, while founding the KIA Football Academy in Iran in 2015.
In a press conference before Monday’s encounter, former Iranian fullback said he and his team eye the qualifiers as a preparatory event for the future contests as their main goal is to be present at the Olympics.
“Our team is a mixture of players in the Persian Gulf Pro League and the seconds-tier league in Iran,” added the manager, who rued not being able to use overseas players, as the competition is being held outside FIFA international matchdays.