The National Sport of Iran is Soccer.
Soccer in Iran is a source of national pride and passion, with a rich history and strong presence in international competitions.
To learn more about sports culture in Iran, read our article about the most popular sports in Iran.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1920: The Iran Football Federation is founded, marking the formal inception of organized soccer in Iran.
- 1941-1947: Due to World War II and its aftermath, the development of soccer in Iran is temporarily stalled.
- 1968: Iran wins its first Asian Cup, asserting its regional dominance in soccer.
- 1978: Iran makes its debut in the FIFA World Cup, participating in the tournament held in Argentina.
- 1990s: Soccer grows in popularity, with Iran’s national team participating in several Asian Cup tournaments and achieving solid performances.
- 2006: Iran’s national team secures a spot in the FIFA World Cup held in Germany after an exciting qualifying campaign.
- 2018: Iran registers its first-ever back-to-back qualifications for the FIFA World Cup, after participating in the 2014 and 2018 editions.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer in Iran transcends the boundaries of a mere sport – it represents a significant aspect of the country’s cultural identity. A unifying force across all social strata, soccer has the power to connect Iranian people regardless of age, ethnicity, or background. It is an embodiment of Iran’s resilience and determination, mirroring the nation’s historical journey.
Matches between the two rival clubs, Esteghlal and Persepolis, both based in Tehran, generate a vibrant atmosphere, with impassioned fans bringing life to the stadiums. These classic match-ups, known as Tehran Derbies, are remarkable celebrations of the country’s soccer culture.
During important international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup or the Asian Cup, public spaces are filled with excited fans, eagerly rooting for their national team. These shared experiences strengthen connections among Iranians, demonstrating the profound impact soccer has on the nation’s collective spirit.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard soccer match consists of two 45-minute halves, with a 15-minute halftime interval.
- Objective: Teams aim to score goals by successfully getting the ball into the opponent’s net.
- Players: Each team fields 11 players, including a goalkeeper who is the only player allowed to use their hands within their penalty area.
- Offside: A player is deemed offside if they are closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Fouls committed against opponents result in direct or indirect free-kicks and, in certain cases, penalty kicks.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made from leather or other suitable materials.
- Goalposts: Placed at each end of the field, goalposts measure 2.44 meters in height and 7.32 meters in width.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishable kits, with goalkeepers dressed in distinct colors to differentiate them from other players.
- Shin Guards: Protective gear worn by players helps minimize the risk of injury due to tackles and collisions.
- Boots: Studded footwear specifically designed to cater to soccer’s unique requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
In contemporary times, Iran’s soccer landscape has evolved, with greater emphasis placed on the development of domestic leagues, scouting for new talent, and facilitating the growth of homegrown stars. With Iranian players increasingly making their presence felt in European leagues, Iran’s soccer scene is poised for a promising future.
Cultural and technological advancements have also impacted the way soccer is consumed and played in Iran, with increased access to televised matches from domestic and international leagues. This wider exposure has contributed to both the popularization of the sport and the growth of a knowledgeable and passionate fan base.
Over recent decades, Iran has seen the rise of several prominent players who have made a mark on the global stage. Players such as Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, and Ashkan Dejagah have helped elevate Iranian soccer in the international circuit, inspiring future generations to achieve even greater success.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a staple event in the Olympic Games, with its first appearance in the 1900 Summer Olympics for men and the 1996 edition for women. Iran’s national soccer team made its Olympic debut in the 1964 Tokyo Games and has since then participated in three additional editions of the event. The nation’s best performance came during the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where Iran finished in 5th place.
The Olympics have played an instrumental role in elevating soccer’s global recognition, showcasing the sport’s talents to a vast audience. Several Iranian players, such as Vahid Hashemian and Ali Karimi, gained valuable experience representing their nation in the Olympic Games, subsequently establishing themselves as prominent figures in professional soccer leagues around the world.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Ali Daei: Considered one of the greatest Asian soccer players, Daei holds the world record for the most international goals scored in men’s soccer history. His illustrious career includes playing for prominent European clubs such as Bayern Munich and representing Iran in multiple World Cup tournaments.
- Mehdi Mahdavikia: A skillful winger known for his crosses and assists, Mahdavikia has represented Iran in two FIFA World Cup competitions and was named the Asian Footballer of the Year in 2003. He enjoyed a successful club career in Europe, particularly with Hamburger SV in the German Bundesliga.
- Ali Karimi: Often referred to as the “Asian Maradona,” Karimi was an incredibly talented attacking midfielder who dazzled fans with his exceptional dribbling skills. Playing in the Bundesliga and representing Iran in both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, Karimi left a lasting impression on the soccer world.
- Andranik Teymourian: A versatile central midfielder, Teymourian has made significant contributions not only for Iran’s national team but also while playing in Europe with English clubs Bolton Wanderers and Fulham. As the first Christian to captain Iran’s national team, he is also an important symbol of unity and diversity within Iranian soccer culture.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- IRIB : Iran’s public broadcaster offers coverage of domestic league matches, Iranian national team games, and some international competitions.
- Streaming services: Fans can access various streaming platforms like beIN Sports, showing matches from major European leagues and international tournaments.
- Live in Iran: Attend exciting matches featuring local clubs and the national team at iconic venues such as Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Foolad Shahr Stadium in Isfahan, and Yadegar-e Emam Stadium in Tabriz.