Don’t celebrate World Cup outside, stay indoors: Iran

June 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm
Posted under: 2014 FIFA World Cup, Gossip, Iran, Iran News, News
When Iran qualified for the World Cup last year it prompted dancing on the streets of Tehran, with millions of men and women gathering to celebrate a rare sporting achievement.

An empty street (FILE)Picture taken June 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
An empty street (FILE)Picture taken June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

It was an even rarer sight in the Islamic republic to see both sexes mix together so freely. Put bluntly, the police had a dilemma: act and spoil the party, or let the fun flow wildly for a few hours. They did nothing.

Now that the Iranian team is competing in Brazil, the authorities in Tehran don’t want the same thing to happen again. The message is simple: stay at home.

Cafes and restaurants in the capital have been told to not show the games, which start in the evening because of the time difference and can end in the small hours.

Saturday’s match against Argentina, one of the tournament favourites, is set to be the highlight for Iran, who are appearing in the finals for the first time since 2006 and the fourth time overall.

There could have been expectations of some sense of occasion regardless of the result, but the prospect of large public gatherings such as the street parties of last year’s qualification appear too much to contemplate.

Having been warned by police, trade associations for cinemas, restaurants and other public venues, have told their members to fall into line. It is not a popular move.

“I cannot understand why we are not allowed to watch the games in public. In all other countries, people come together and stand united in supporting their team,” said Shiva, a 26-year-old accountant, asking to be identified by her first name only.

“Why are we deprived of this simple right? What is wrong with showing solidarity with our boys? It is very frustrating,” she added.

Hezar Destan, a traditional Persian restaurant near Val-i-Asr, Tehran’s longest street, has a large television on which Iran’s qualifying matches were screened and supporters, many smoking Shisha pipes, watched from the relaxed comfort of Persian carpets.

But it is one of many such establishments forced to follow the guidance.

A cafe owner in affluent north Tehran who did a roaring trade during pervious matches has taken the same step, telling AFP he did not want to risk problems with the authorities.

Their decision to shut up shop early is part of a wider trend that has downplayed the significance of the football extravaganza.

After years under the economic boot of sanctions, the beautiful game has offered a rare moment of sporting unity, but it would be hard to tell the World Cup was taking place by looking around Tehran.

Unlike many countries, no flags hang from car aerials in support of Team Melli (national team, in Farsi). There are a few billboards with a footballing theme, but little else.

The Iran side is seen as plucky and determined, but ultimately lacking in talent. Unfancied from the start, the players were booed off the pitch after a 0-0 draw with the African champions Nigeria, on Monday.

A picture of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani watching that match went viral, but more because he was dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a sports shirt, a rare sight for a cleric, than for anything related to Team Melli.

The picture on his Twitter account showed him sat on a sofa with tea and pistachios. It seemed to highlight a reality for Iranians interested in the football: if you are into football, or merely want to join in with your friends, do so in your living room.

With one point already secured and a third match against Bosnia-Hercegovina next week, Team Melli could yet spring a surprise.

Regardless of the lack of public events in Tehran, some fans think it is the taking part that counts.

“This team has no good players, but the coach created a team spirit, they played with their heart against Nigeria,” said Hossein, a 29-year-old artist, who will watch Saturday’s match at home.

“Of course I don’t have much hope against Argentina, maybe we will be crushed,” he added.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.