In the late 1970’s, Iran and Spain stood close to each other on the world’s stage. They both had struggling monarchies with a legacy of over 30 years of dictatorship. They both had gross national products of about $50 Bn. And, they both had populations of about 40 Million. Both countries enjoyed a long history of royalty, and they had both suffered an invasion by the expanding Islamic empire over 500 years ago.
This past week I witnessed Spain’s triumphant Soccer (Futbol) team beat Germany in the Finals of the Eufa Cup. And on Sunday, it was Spain’s Rafael Nadal crowned Wimbledon’s Mens Tennis Champion, beating Roger Federer. And all this right after Spain’s Sergio Garcia was named the PGA tour’s (golf) players’ champion.
To whatever extent sports reflect health and prosperity; one can say Spain has arrived!
By Contrast, Iran’s Soccer (Futbol) team has barely made it to the second round of World Cup Qualification, having lost or drawn in games against the great power houses of Asian soccer: Bahrain and United Arab Emirates. I have to say, it makes me boil. And, I am getting ready to hide under the sheets in about a month when the Olympics start! Iran, I am sure, will be an embarrassment again. Everything from Iran’s opening procession team parade to actual athletic performance will be a sham. Iran’s medal rankings will recede again from its heyday in the ‘70s – even in wrestling and weight lifting!
In every international way, Iran’s Ayatoilets have led Iran into the toilet.
Here we are 30 years later. Spain is a vibrant democracy, with a population around 40 Million and a GNP of $1 Trillion. Yes that is 20 times Spain’s GDP in 1980. Iran on the other hand is an Islamic Theocracy, with a GNP of $118 Billion and roughly double the population. If one accounts for inflation, Iran’s per capita income has actually receded substantially. This is all despite the fact that Spain has no natural resources. Iran on the other hand has been sitting on one of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world.
Spain hosted the Soccer world cup (’96), the Olympics (’92) …and has visibly left behind a historic legacy of religious totalitarianism. The dark days of “the Spanish Inquisition” of the 13th century and Franco’s fascist dictatorship of the 20th century are well behind it. Spain has developed a very large and free communications industry with a free press along with multi-party pluralistic political parties. Spain is a democracy in every sense of the word.
Iran on the other hand, has simply rolled back its clock some 600 years. Iranians are living through the dark days of “Islamic Inquisition”: without free speech, without free elections, under the heavy watch of the Mullah’s secret service – imp rosining any secular opposition. Iran in effect traded an Imperial Monarchy for an Imperial Theocracy and gained nothing. Iranian democracy is down the toilet.
After wining the game, Rafael Nadal, jumped up to the VIP box to hug his parents, his coaches, his relatives and then ran across a series of roofs with a Spanish flag to hug the Prince and Princess of Spain in the Royal box. In his post game interview, he thanked the Spanish royals for attending. Their presence meant a great deal to him.
I can not even imagine a single Iranian athlete doing anything like that. Imagine someone thanking Iran’s Supreme Leader (Khamenei) or President Ahmadinejad for anything….except maybe screwing up Iran’s soccer federation with appointing a political crony to head it (as they did recently) …leading to censure by FIFA for political involvement in the soccer federation, and nearly getting Iran kicked out of the global federation and censured from international games.
We were all rooting for Spain, and we were thrilled to witness all these events! However privately, I remain saddened by Iran’s demise, and I keep wondering what will it take to turn things around for Iran?
Intellectually, physically, and historically Iranians are no less than the Spaniards…dare I say than anyone else. When will our days of triumph on the world’s stage come? Can a new Iranian generation rise to glory?