Iranian forward signs with U.S. league, to play for
March 9, 2000, SAN JOSE, California (AP) - Former Asian Player of the
Year Khodadad Azizi has signed a multi-year deal with U.S. Major League
Soccer and the San Jose Earthquakes, which hope to have the Iranian forward
in camp within a week.
The 28-year-old Azizi, the 1996 Asian Player of the Year, has 33 caps
for Iran , including matches at the 1998 World Cup and 1996 Asian Cup,
where Iran finished in third place after beating Kuwait on penalties.
Azizi had played the last 2 1-2 seasons with FC Cologne in Germany but
had fallen out of favor with the club, which has dropped to the second
The announcement on Wednesday of his signing, which had been delayed
because of claims on Azizi by a Turkish club, will give the Earthquakes
a second scoring striker beside Salvadoran Ronald Cerritos.
MLS vice president of operations and player relations Ivan Gazidis said
Iranian national team coach Mansour Pourhaidari has given the U.S. league
assurances he will not call Azizi for Iran's Asian Cup qualifying tournament
in Damascus, Syria, and Tehran set for March 31-April 11.
"I think that is an extraordinary act of cooperation," Gazidis
The MLS season begins March 18 with San Jose's first game scheduled
for March 25 at Columbus.
"We hope to have him probably within week," said Gazidis,
who added the U.S. government already has approved Azizi's work visa.
"We're just waiting for the mail. He's in Dubai, and as soon as
we have his papers stamped, we'll get him here."
Azizi's most notable accomplishment was scoring two late second-half
goals against Australia in World Cup qualifying, giving Iran a 2-2 draw
and sending it to France 98, Iran 's first appearance in the World Cup
finals in 20 years.