N Korea, Iran Battle to Soccer Stalemate

Result could hurt Ahmedinejad's election chances
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2009 8:02 AM CDT
Iran's Gholamreza Rezaei, right, and North Korea's national soccer players Jun Il, left, and Yung Jo, fight for the ball during a World Cup qualifier in Tehran last fall.   (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
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(Newser) – There was more than World Cup qualification riding on the soccer game between the two remaining members of George W. Bush’s "axis of evil" today, the Financial Times reports. Mahmoud Ahmedinajad has long been criticized for interfering with the national team, and today's frustrating 0-0 stalemate with North Korea looks certain to give his rivals a boost in the "soccer vote" ahead of next week's presidential election.

Ahmedinejad's many critics in soccer-mad Iran say his choice of coaches is politically motivated and they blame his meddling for the team's lousy record in the World Cup qualifiers, with just six points from six games. Today's result means Iran faces a must-win game against the United Arab Emirates Wednesday—just 36 hours before the voting kicks off.