Former Iranian soccer star, now in charge of football development at the local football federation, told local media this week that 17% of former Iranian footballers, who have played for different Iranian clubs and the national team, are suffering from drug addiction.
Nima Nakisa, 43, who was the goalkeeper for the Iranian national team at the 1998 World Cup, is now a pathologist for football injuries and was recently appointed to develop soccer at the Iranian Football Federation.
However, the controversial statement may be the result of inaccurate characterization of substances in supplements, although occasional drug addiction among former athletes is not uncommon among famous stars after they are no longer under the spotlight.
A few Iranian footballers falling victim to drug addiction have made headlines in the past but it is for the first time that an official talks about the issue and mentions figures on the extent of the problem.
"Based on the latest statistics, 17% of the footballers who have been listed on the national soccer teams in different categories are currently addicted to drugs," Nakisa has admitted.
The figures are shocking as it may mean that drug addiction is far more widespread than it was estimated beforeand is not just limited to a few retired and veteran soccer stars.
Furthermore, Nakisa notes that 43% of the footballers, who played for the Iranian national soccer team in the past fifteen years, are currently engaged in professions unrelated to the sport.
"Only 21% of the soccer players of the past fifteen years are still cooperating with the football clubs," Nakisa laments.
The former Iranian goalkeeper, who won a bronze medal at the 1996 National Asian Cup, describes the latest statistics as disastrous and says the issue of addiction needs to be addressed.
A few Iranian soccer stars have made headlines because if their addiction to heavy drugs, including Ali Akbarian, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for carrying crack cocaine.
In the meantime, Nakisa has admitted that Iran's soccer is way behind other Asian teams, despite the fact that its national team ranks first on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association's (FIFA) list of the best Asian soccer teams.
Moreover, he pointed out that while eleven and 115 people are engaged in the business of promoting and educating essential soccer among the children and teenagers in the small country