For everyone who knows or doesn't know, Mehdi Mahdavikia has been my favorite Iranian soccer player for many many years. I am proud of his skill and his accomplishments. I will never forget his lighting speed and the way he cemented our win against the United States in the 1998 World Cup. Every Hamburg match I watch, it makes the hair on my neck rise whenever the announcers shout his name and announce that he is a member of the Iranian National Team. He is the best player we have in Germany, and he is a fixed player on a team of stars. This should be an honor for him and us, and most of all, me.
So it was a shock last week when I came upon sporting headlines accusing him of having . I thought it was surely a hoax. Ridiculous. Impossible. Not in 2006 and not a man who has become a role model for so many. I don't care about his personal life. It's not that. When it comes to a person's own life, the more the merrier, whatever… If it had been anyone else: the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker… I wouldn't sweat it.
But he respresents us. He respresents me and you and a country of 70 million. He has no right to steal Iran's spotlight and focus it on himself in such a negative manner. It pains me because I have so been looking forward to this coming World Cup. Now, I dread it. Because I know what the media does, the jokes that the announcers will make. They are supposed to take our players seriously. They should be focusing on how high up we are on FIFA's World Rankings. They should praise Hashemian, Rezaei, Karimi, and Mahdavikia, among others, on their accomplishments abroad. We should be focusing on bringing Mexico, Portugal, and Angola to their knees.
But instead, there will be controversy. Shame. Ridicule. People will look at Iranians no different than they did in 1979 as those hostages were being paraded around for 444 days. A bunch of backward radicals. And that is a slap in the face to me and so many others because we are counting on these players for more than just to put a ball in the back of the net. My generation has no other heroes. We can't look to our honarmands and we can't relate to our politicians. We just have these guys and their sport. We have no flag. We have their jerseys. We have no real representatives to this world. Only their smiling faces, their amazing dribbles, their scores, their sportsmanship.
I may seem like a jerk when I say this, but they OWE us. We believed in them from the beginning. Each and every one of them. We filled that stadium in France for three nights and we filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and gathered from all over the country to watch them play in a friendly. We create endless soccer forums for them. We cheer on their every move. We are watching them. When they play with the Iranian jersey and when they move away to play in Europe. No matter where they go, we follow. We believe in them. We show the world how loyal and caring we are. We come in rain, in snow. They have a responsibility to us. All I'm saying is, Mahdavikia better make up for this during the World Cup, preferably against Portugal and Mexico. Three goals against each would be good….