Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iran and the World Cup

The World Cup starts today, and if you are a die-hard soccer (sorry, I'm from the U.S.) fan like me, then you may have read some articles about Team Melli, the National team- what we call our beloved team. I'm not going to tell you the who's who of the squad because there are much more qualified people than me to do that. Instead I'm going to tell you about the most important person off the field...a much overlooked person- Akbar Booghi. 

Who is Akbar Booghi? Well, he's the guy in the crowd leading all the cheers and chants, so dedicated to livening up the fans that he graciously turns his back to the field (or wrestling mats because he also exists there) and leads the crowd with his cheers and boogh, hornAnd because we don't know his real name, we've given him the common first name Akbar and the last name Booghi because of his horn and because the suffix "i" is a common ending in Iranian last names. 

My dad and I are avid freestyle wrestling fans and used to fly to different cities in the U.S. to watch the Iranian national team. This is where I was first introduced to Akbar Booghi. I don't think he saw even one weight class the entire time. Instead, he was beating his drum (to the point where his palms had become bloody) and leading the cheers. A typical one goes "do do do do do do IRAN"! (the "do" being the horn, and the IRAN being the crowds response.) I remember at the end of that particular wrestling competition, an American came over and bought one of the Iran T-shirts saying he had never seen wrestling or fans like this before. Of course the Iranians couldn't stop taking pictures of him wearing the Iran T-shirt. 

You'll also hear that cheer for soccer. Another common one is where Akbar Booghi says: Iran che kāresh mikone?, What is Iran going to do to them? And the crowd answers: surākh surākhesh mikone, riddle [the net] with holes! (this obviously refers to how many goals we'll score. We aim high.) 

You may recall that during World Cup '98 in France, Iran and the U.S. played in the group phase. Iran lost 1-0 to the former Yugoslavia (which we somewhat celebrated because we actually expected to get surākh surākh). We also lost 2-0 to Germany, but by then it didn't matter because we had already won the World Cup as far as we were concerned. The only game we really cared about was the U.S. game which we won 2-1. I was lucky enough to be in Tehran that night, and I have to say it was one of the greatest nights of my life. It was about the 80th minute and I had already started hearing garage doors opening and cars honking. When the game was officially over, the streets were mayhem! Like I said, that was our World Cup, and we won. It was past midnight, yet stores were handing out flowers and sweets on the streets. By the time we got back home, it was around 6am and we were exhausted. Such a great night. Impromptu parties break out in the streets like this a lot when it comes to these kinds of events. Last summer, the same thing happened in the span of about a week when Iran qualified for the WC and when Rouhani was elected President. 

This year, Iran will be in the group phase with Nigeria, Argentina (yikes), and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I'm super excited that I will once again be in Iran at this time. Hoping for a victory and another reason to celebrate like this. But we are realists of course, so after Iran is out, I will be supporting my other favorite, the Netherlands. 

Before I leave you, you know I have to give you a soccer-related Persian idiom: daghigheye navad, the 90th minute, which refers to the 90th minute in soccer matches, and basically just means last minute. In the movie Shish o Besh, two friends are trying to pull a heist of sorts. One of them was supposed to bring the "moral police" bus, but instead he brings a regular passenger bus. His friend says he almost blew their cover by doing that, and he responds, Joone Sami, daghighe navad bud, I swear to you Sami, it was the 90th minute [last minute]. He didn't have a choice. It was the last minute, and he had to come up with a solution.

Go Iran!


  1. Pontia, are you going to Iran again this world cup season? last year after Iran qualified for World Cup I planned to go to Iran to during world cup just to be inside the crowd to celebrate this good times because I know it would be very exciting. But then I had to forget it because it's near ramadhan and my mom wouldn't allow me. so sad. dont forget to share the enjoyment!

    1. Oh that's too bad. I'm sure you know how fun it gets! I'm currently here. I just posted a short video on Instagram... a bit late, but still :) hoping for a victory against Bosnia... still a chance to celebrate big!


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