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German soccer clubs find bargains galore in Iran

By Marc Moeller, dpa

July 22, Hamburg (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) - German soccer clubs have discovered Iran as a cheap market for new players. The Gulf country has become fashionable in the Bundesliga since Iran 's strong showing at last year's World Cup finals. (See related photo)

The latest club to go shopping in Teheran is Hamburg SV which has bought national striker Vahid Hashemian for just 750,000 marks (about 400,000 dollars), a bargain-basement price compared to the inflated fees demanded by European clubs.

The 22-year-old forward, who has scored four goals in eight appearances for the Asian champions, joins the northern Germans from Pas Sport Club of Teheran.

The financially less well off Bundesliga clubs have now changed the emphasis of their search for new players. Not so long South America was the place to look for bargain buys, but now millions have to be paid for even unproven Latin American talent.

Ten Iranians are now on the books of first and second division Bundesliga clubs.

In the top division are: Ali Daei (Hertha Berlin), Mehdi Mahdavikia and Vahid Hashemian (Hamburg), Darious Yazdani (Leverkusen) and Karim Bagheri (Arminia Bielefeld).

Second division players are: Sergik Teymourian and Sirious Dinmohammed (Mainz), Seyedali Mousavi and Medhi Paschazadeh (Fortuna Cologne) and Khodadad Azizi (FC Cologne).

``Even more Iranian players will be on their way to Germany in the forseeable future,'' forecast Mehrdad Nazemi, who is acting both as Hashemian's adviser and translator.

Nazemi, who was physiotherapist for the Iranian national side between 1994 and 1997, is convinced the Iranian players have the quality and mentality to be successful in the Bundesliga.

``The players live for football, are technically very good and do things wholeheartedly,'' he said.

``Apart from that they have a very European football mentality which helps them integrate easily.''

Yet it is integration which remains the biggest problem. Although most players endeavour to learn German quickly the use of the language is usually restricted to the usual footballing terms.

Normal communication outside of training has been difficult, and as a result many of the Iranians are isolated within their clubs. It was noticeable that when Ali Daei and Karim Bagheri played together at Bielefeld the two could were usually cut off from the rest of the players.

Discussions on politics and religion is also a taboo. The Iranians usually stonewall any questions on these issues, with the response: ``We are here to play football.''

Daei, in an interview this week in Sport Bild, said the lack of knowledge in Germany about Iran , as well as the language problems, often led to misunderstandings.

He called for people to be ``more respectful with our beliefs'', and promised his German would be good enough by the end of the coming season to give his first interview in German without a translator.

Meanwhile the fear of the fundamentalist regime is ever present. After the Islamic revolution 20 years ago, the Iranian football federation was put under the supervision of the state authority for physical fitness, headed by the deputy president who in turn appoints the presidents of the national sporting bodies.

Daei and Bagheri led the Iranian influx when they joined Bielefeld in 1997 for a reported combined fee of just 450,000 marks.

Daei, ``world's leading goalscorer'' in 1996, proved to be a wise investment. A year later Bayern Munich paid around five million marks for the forward. Daei moved in the close season to Hertha Berlin for the same fee.

Hamburg are meanwhile hoping their new Iranian will prove to be a similar bargain. Trainer Frank Pagelsdorf believes Hashemian could be one of the discoveries of the season.


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