Last year someone told me that the new Team Melli is a young and talented bunch with a good chance of making their way to the 2006 World Cup. Truth is until recently I had once again lost track of who these fresh players are and whether the rosy predictions are true or not.
I have never been much of a sports fan, but when it came to the World Cup, I used to support Italy, mostly because of the great looking players — I could care less about their handling of the ball. Of course when Iranian football came back on the world scene, I was all excited, especially after the 1998 qualifier between Iran and Australia.
I'd had a bad day and was lying on the couch in auto pilot mode until we scored the first goal. My horizontal state turned vertical and after the second goal, I was on the ceiling. Eight minutes into extra time, I had made a rope with the hair I had pulled out of my head. And then, finally, the final victorious whistle.
I was in Tehran. I had never seen such scenes of sincere joy and unity amongst the people. We took to the streets immediately and came home eight hours later, celebrated to the core. Every one was out celebrating and not an ounce of tension in the atmosphere — no emotion was held back, a sweet taste of freedom after so long.
Of course I was not prepared for this victory and didn't really look the part of a fan. So when the World Cup matches began eight months later, I made sure I had all the props I needed to accessorize my enthusiasm. I had my Iran football shirt, face paint, flags, green, white and red balloons, handy cam to capture the moments, whistle and the very important little 'boogh' for which I searched just about every sports shop in Tehran to get hold of. I didn't even spare my nails from the colours of the Iranian flag.
I was planning to go to France for the actual games. My friend and I tried hard to get hold of tickets but no such luck. Then I got this job in Iran (turned out to be rubbish) and didn't want to risk leaving it all to go to France empty handed. My friend on the other hand, drove to France and met some rich Iranian kids who happened to have spare tickets for the games. Lucky devil! She swears it's the best thing she's ever done.
Six months later we won the Asian championships and I was convinced we'd make it to Korea/Japan 2002. My cousins and I made a pact that we would definitely go to the Far East to catch the games if Iran made it. When I went back to London shortly after, I took my football shirt, whistle and boogh with me, just in case.
Obviously fate had its own plans. Now we've waited seven years and based on what I saw during the match against Japan, I have to say we do have some funky players!
I find it too painful to follow the initial stages and prefer to wait until the possibility is real to get into it all again. I can't wait until June when the two home games against Bahrain and North Korea are over with. I am counting on us winning these games with all my heart.
Will we make it to Germany? We are so darn close that I have already packed my football shirt, face paint and boogh ready to go, so ey bacheha yalla.