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TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran on Wednesday named Portugal's Artur Jorge as their new coach to revive the fortunes of its national football team, ending months of uncertainty when one of the top sides in Asia was without a coach.
Jorge, known as "King Artur" to his fans, was officially appointed coach after a meeting of the Iranian Football Federation's transitional committee, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"Artur Jorge took over as the head coach of the Iranian national football team for taking part in the qualification games for the 2010 World Cup" in South Africa, IRNA said.
The semi official Fars news agency cited federation spokesman Ali Reghbati as saying that two foreign assistants were being appointed to work alongside Jorge as well as Iranian assistant coach Mansour Ebrahimzadeh.
The appointment comes just in time for the national side's warm-up games against Germany's Hansa Rostock and Qatar which are to be played in Tehran on Saturday and on January 9 respectively.
Many major football names had been linked with the job in a long search conducted by the federation, including Germany's Winfried Schaefer and Frenchman Philippe Troussier, and England's Peter Reid.
The appointment also comes amid a continuing battle between conservatives and reformists for control of the Iranian football federation, which is currently without a permanent chief.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month pulled his candidate to head the body after world football's governing body FIFA warned political interference in the game could lead to Iran being banned from world football.
Jorge enjoyed success at FC Porto and then went on to coach sides including Paris St Germain and CSKA Moscow. He has also coached the Portuguese, Cameroon and Swiss national sides.
Some voices in the Iranian sports press and weblogs have questioned the wisdom of the appointment, pointing to Jorge's history of poor health and lack of major success at an international level.
Iran has shown lacklustre form since being bundled out of the 2006 World Cup in the first round, despite boasting stars like Bolton Wanderers midfielder Andranik Teymourian and Eintracht Frankfurt winger Mehdi Mahdavikia.
But drawn in a weak group with Kuwait, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, it would be a major surprise if Iran failed to qualify. Iran is due to play its first World Cup qualifier against Syria in February.