Iran went into this year’s World Cup in Brazil as an underdog, and while it may not have advanced to the second round, its diverse and dedicated group of players has given fans and commentators plenty to cheer about.
The only Middle Eastern team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Iran’s national team, or Team Melli, is a beautiful example of the diversity that exists within Iranian society and the larger Iranian diaspora. Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz assembled an international team featuring players living outside Iran as well as an American assistant coach, Dan Gaspar. Star players, Ashkan Dejagah, Daniel Davari, Reza Ghoochannejhad, and Steven Beitashour hold German, Dutch and American citizenship respectively. One of the team’s most beloved players, Andranik Teymourian, is Iranian-Armenian and part of the 80,000 strong Armenian Christian minority living inside Iran.
Despite the economic hardships imposed by international sanctions and insufficient government funding, the Iranian national team managed to play an impressive game against powerhouse Argentina, only just losing out in the last minute. Beyond the pitch, Team Melli brought an important environmental message to the World Cup with its team jersey featuring the endangered Asiatic cheetah in an attempt to highlight awareness of threatened species.
For more information: Check out FIFA’s World Cup Team Profile of Iran