Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s oldest son, Rustam Emomali, has been appointed to supervise the national football (soccer) team ahead of the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup. Tajikistan will play in the second round of qualifiers despite losing 6-1 on aggregate to Syria earlier in the year. Following the defeat, Tajikistan wrote to FIFA requesting an investigation into whether Syria’s striker George Mourad, who had played and scored in both games against Tajikistan, was eligible to play for Syria. Mourad had previously played for Sweden’s Under-21 team in 2003 and the national team in 2005. On August 19, FIFA ruled to disqualify Syria from the 2014 World Cup and reinstate Tajikistan into the competition. Tajikistan has replaced Syria in Group C of Asia, which Tajik commentators have already dubbed ‘The Group of Death,’ qualifying along with Japan, Uzbekistan and North Korea.
Rustam’s appointment is hardly surprising given the 23-year-old’s passion for football. The Tajik leader’s son owns a football club, which won the national championship in 2010 and appears set to repeat its success this year, and has long played for the club as a striker. As Emomali Rahmon began speeding up Rustam’s political career, allegedly in a bid to prepare him to succeed his father in office, Rustam stopped playing football professionally but was appointed as Vice-President of the country’s Football Federation in late 2010. Anyways, this appointment is much less controversial than Rustam’s previous promotions as head of department in the State Committee for Investments and State Property Management, deputy chief of Youth Movement, member of Dushanbe City Legislature and, most recently, head of the Customs Service’s department to fight illegal activity (a job that comes with the rank of a major).
Rustam has already appointed Istiqlol’s coach, Alimjon Rafiqov, as acting national coach. The Tajik national team’s former manager, Pulod Qodirov, resigned in August after his team was defeated by Syria.