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Memories

Behind Amjadieh
Part one

By Hooshyar F. Naraghi
October 3, 2003
The Iranian

The following story is about playing soccer in the the middle of the streets of Tehran. The original text was written in Persian for a high school composition class in 1971 in Iran. Amjadieh is the name of the oldest football stadium in the heart of Tehran. It is no longer in active use because most soccer games are now held in the 100,000-seat Azadi (Liberty) Stadium.

Azar 20, 1350 (December 11, 1971)
Dr. Mahmoud Shimi High School
Tehran, Iran

Football -- competitive, dangerous sports in general -- has been banned in our high school recently. In the beginning of the school year, we were able to play football in the school yard until the start of the first classes at 8:30 AM.

The most exciting and delightful events were those rare occasions when we played against the twelfth graders. The majority of them were members of our own high school team. There was ample reason to celebrate, brag, boast and tease if our team, whose members were comprised of the seventh to eleventh graders, happened to win a game agnaist the big guys. These poor fellows would never hear the end of it. These victories were of course announced proudly to the rest of the members of our respective classes and made us heroes in their eyes. As the publisher of our high-school bulletin-board newspaper, I could even write about them in the sports section.

Our football games normally started around 7:15 every morning. Our school yard was square shaped with almost equal angles to each side. This shape was far from ideal to be considered a football field. However, one does not have much to complain about when the high school is public, and specially with a building donated by a wealthy merchant from the Qajar era. We counted our lucky stars that the school yard was covered with asphalt. No complaints here either.

Galvanized basketball poles functioned as our goal posts for football. They were located at the eastern and western ends of the school yard. After a three-year tenure in that school, I had yet to witness a single soul actually managing to pass a ball through the basketball rings. In fact, I don't know of any student in our high school who had ever attempted this game at all!

When playing football, our major preoccupation was to overcome the problem of dealing with the western side of the yard, adjacent to the restrooms. Only a short plaster wall separated our school from a private house. Most of the time our ball would cross the wall and land in the neighboring yard.

This always brought an abrupt and sorrowful end to our games, since the cranky old tenant of that house would send us a warning signal by tearing our plastic ball into pieces. This action on his part never failed to upset the eager football players that we were. It was the cranky neighbor's revenge. Now, if we had any pocket money left, we would organize a collection and purchase another ball for ten rials from the corner grocery store.

The restrooms were another major nuisance every time we were engaged in a game. The longest argument was always generated when the ball was accidentally hit inside one of the restrooms, an incident which occurred quite frequently. Whose turn was it to fetch it from that filthy place? The unlucky player was also granted the honor of washing the ball in the water fountain situated next to the restrooms.

The school principal used to constantly complain about the lack of funds for the repair of the restrooms. His argument was that if certain funds were to ever miraculously be appropriated, they would be spent on the school itself. The principal feared the building would collapse in a not too distant future.

The main entrance of the school yard was on the eastern side, located on Bahar Street. The rule of the game was players who happened to kick the ball over the eastern wall, had to also risk their lives by going out and picking up the ball from the middle of the busy street! Rules were rules!

An old but well-maintained house with a very beautiful garden and to-die-for roses formed the school's western neighbor. In order to prevent our balls from landing in his property, the owner of the house had erected a tall fence above the western wall. The growth of ivy and other plants during the years had turned this simple fence into a rather attractive sight.

The northern side of the school yard offered no passage to the outside. The western side was actually the only side swallowing our precious balls like an alligator in a state of permanent hunger. This meant that the school walls were practically safe as well as an ideal enclosure for our games ... >>> Part 2
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>>> Part 4

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Behind Amjadieh
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