Monday, June 17, 2013

Group 4 – considered the second easiest group at the finals. Holland an absolute favourite, Scotland most likely second, but Peru had also a chance if in good form, and Iran – the clear outsider. Only at the large scheme there was a question was the Asian representative better or worse than the African – otherwise, the immediate opponents were quite happy to have an easy game. Iran was a debutant at the finals and unknown team. The country decided to elevate her football about five years ago and so far the changes brought results. Some were common for any third world country: import of foreign coaches and organizing stable regular league. Others were not common – Iran paid attention to the development of youth players and came close to professionalizing the sport. Clubs were attached to big companies, even banks, sometimes named after their sponsors. Third league was established, practically consisting only of youth teams. Better developed than most Asian and African states, having lots of oil, Iran had money to invest in the game – and results came quickly. Iran won three times the Asian championship, reached the Olympic finals in 1976, and performed relatively well in Montreal. But Iranians were well aware that those were still early steps, their football was still far behind the leading nations. Outside Asia, the team was an enigma, although not an interesting one.
Unlike many third world nations, Iran preferred domestic coach, whose name meant nothing outside Asia. Heshmet Mohajerani, however, knew his players – his selection was experienced enough, playing regularly in the last few years, including the 1976 Olympics. But this was only general knowledge – the Iranian coach was unknown and hardly anybody even asked his opinion of the draw, the chances of this or that team, anything. Even Soviet journalists, a bit more familiar with Iranian football, for the Soviet youth national team played twice in Tehran, did not interview Mohajerani in length, preferring the opinions of the star of Iranian football Ali Parvin. At the end, Mohajerani's selection attracted perhaps less interest than the Tunisian squad.
1    GK  Nasser Hejazi                                       14 December 1949 (aged 28)    Shahbaz
2    MF  Iraj Danaeifard                                      19 March 1951 (aged 27)         Taj
3    FW  Behtash Fariba                                      11 February 1955 (aged 23)      Pas
4    FW  Majid Bishkar                                       6 August 1956 (aged 21)           Rastakhiz
5    DF   Javad Allahverdi                                    16 July 1954 (aged 23)             Persepolis
6    MF   Hassan Nayebagha                               17 September 1950 (aged 27)   Homa
7    MF  Ali Parvin                                               12 October 1946 (aged 31)      Persepolis
8    MF  Ebrahim Ghasempour                             24 August 1956 (aged 21)        Shahbaz
9    MF  Mohammad Sadeghi                              17 March 1951 (aged 27)         Pas
10  FW  Hassan Roshan                                      2 June 1955 (aged 22)              Taj
11  DF   Ali Reza Ghesghayan                             27 February 1954 (aged 24)      Bargh Shiraz
12  GK  Bahram Mavaddat                                 30 January 1950 (aged 28)        Sepahan
13  FW  Hamid Majd Teymouri                           3 June 1953 (aged 24)               Shahbaz
14  DF   Hassan Nazari                                       19 August 1955 (aged 22)          Taj
15  DF  Andranik Eskandarian                             31 December 1951 (aged 26)    Taj
16  FW  Nasser Nouraei                                      9 July 1956 (aged 21)                Homa
17  FW  Ghafour Jahani                                       18 June 1950 (aged 27)             Malavan
18  FW  Hossein Faraki                                       19 April 1956 (aged 22)            Pas
19  DF   Ali Shojaei                                              23 March 1953 (aged 25)         Sepahan
20  DF   Nasrollah Abdollahi                                2 September 1951 (aged 26)     Shahbaz
21  DF   Hossein Kazerani                                    13 April 1947 (aged 31)            Pas
22  GK  Rasoul Korbekandi                                 27 January 1953 (aged 25)         Zob Ahan
Standing from right: Mahmoud Yavari, Yagodic, Hossein Kazerani, Nassrollah Abdollahi, Mahmoud Haqiqiyan, Ali Shojaie, Mahmoud Ebrahim-zadeh, Ali Parvin, Javad Allah-verdi, Mohammad Panjali, Mohsen Yousefi, Hossein faraki, Moslem Khani, Mansour Rashidi, Asghar Sharafi.

Center from right: Hassan Roshan, Mohammad Sadeqi, Abdolrazaq Khadempir, Parviz Mazloumi, Ebrahim Qassem-pour, Reza Vishgahi, Alireza Qashqaiyan, Majid Beshkar, Kamal Tabibiyan, Behtash Fariba.

Sitting from right: Nasser Hejazi, Reza Adelkhani, Hassan Nazari, Iraj Danaie-fard, Mohammad reza Karabkandi, Hamid Majd-Teymouri, Mehdi Dinvar-zadeh, Hassan Nayeb-aqa, Nasser Nouraie, Kazem Seyyed Alikhani, Andranik Eskandarian.

Naturally, no Iranian played abroad at the time, so it was anonymous, to the world, domestic selection. Nothing to brag about – the 31-years old midfielder Ali Parvin was perhaps the only barely recognizable name. As ever with third world teams, names were the problem – the official list of the team above differs from the real Iranian version. TV journalists hated such names – just try following a match in progress... until you figure out how to pronounce a mystery like 'Qashqaiyan' the ball may be at the other end of the field. And it may come to this only if one figures out who is who, for spelling differs from source to source – as you can from the two lists above. Apart from the headache with names, there was only novelty: Iran was the most bearded squad at the finals by far – eleven bearded players, not counting merely moustachioed ones. Competing with Mexico for the team with most exotic and wild appearance, Iran won. Unlike Mexico, the Iranians were not expected to get a single point, and after three losses, they were to go home and forgotten. No need to really try learning their names.