The good looking World Cup squad that went viral all over the Muslim world
Iranâ€™s national football team, also known as Team Melli, is not only easy on the eye, but a talented, skilled and hardworking bunch of young men.
By Mahlia Lone
The team remained the highest-ranked Asian team out of a total of 47 from December 2014 till May 2018, the longest period a team has been at the top of Asian rankings continuously.
Historically, the Iranian National Football team has won the Asia Cup three times in 1968, 1972 and 1976 and qualified for the FIFA World CupÂ five times.
In February 2014, the teamâ€™s mascot became the endangered Asiatic cheetah to bring attention to conserving the swift and rare exotic animal.
In a controversy leading up to the FIFA World Cup, being an American company Nike refused to supply the Iranian team with footwear due to U.S. sanctions. Nikeâ€™s decision was based on U.S. President Donald Trumpâ€™s call to withdraw from the joint agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UNâ€™s Security Council. The U.S. Department of the Treasury implementing financial sanctions on Iran can charge a person who violates the sanctions with criminal penalties of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
The Iranian Football Federation was irate as the firm had previously supplied the Iranian team with boots despite the sanctions, like at the 2014 World Cup. Nike is providing the shoes for 60 percent of the World Cup players.
Even German company Adidas didnâ€™t step up to the plate, so the players had to desperately find specialty football boots last minutes in Russia or called up the European clubs they play for to help them out.
Iranâ€™s fanatic female football fans are still banned from stadiums and are threatened with jail time if they defy the law. Even Saudi Arabia lifted the ban barring women from watching male sporting events last year.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino early this summer discussed lifting the ban by the Irani government with President Rouhani on the very day 35 women were detained for trying to sneak into a final in Tehran. Defiant Irani women donned fake beards and wigs to disguise themselves as male spectators in Tehranâ€™s Azadi Stadium.
Irani female activist Melody Safavi, who now resides in the U.S. and is a member of the Iranian reggae band Abjeez, wrote the song Stadium asking Iranian men to support women and get this unfair law abolished.
Iran unfortunately could not beat Portugal and the draw meant the team was eliminated from the FIFA World Cup
Just before the World Cup, Iranian national team captain Masud Shojaei and legendary ex-player Ali Karimi beseeched moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) in a video clip posted online to allow â€œwomen to enter stadiums as spectators. it is the dream of many Iranian women who are football fansâ€¦we see the flood of passion from our ladies.â€
President Rouhani is sympathetic but said it will take time to appease the hardliners and lift the ban.