The Grace of Iranian Football

Alireza Haghighi

Alireza Haghighi

By Farid Barquet Climent

“A religious gesture is that touch that can grace our people,” an inhabitant of Teheran said to Ryszard Kapuscinsky who was then writing The Shah of Shahs, an account of the Iranian revolution that led to the fall of Reza Pahlevi in 1979.

If football has deities, a divine gesture was responsible – not for gracing the Iranians in Belo Horizonte – but for their eventual disgrace.

It wasn’t the defence or the goalkeeper but the unfortunate allowance of a few metres in the dying minutes of the match that tipped the match for Argentina and gave Lionel Messi a chance to show why he is the game’s very best.

For 42 million Argentines – and two million more living abroad – the Messi miracle in Mineirao stadium fortified their faith in the messianic powers of his left leg, also inscribed in the phonetics of the number 10’s surname.

Iran’s performance deserves recognition. If their defenders and midfielders spent most of the match in their own half, it wasn’t while they gauged a standoff against attractive football nor was it the result of reverential fear before Argentine history. It was the need to transform a Persian rug into an impossible passage for skilled South American strikers.

Despite all odds, Iran crafted plays that were never reflected on the scoreboard, thanks to magnificent efforts by Argentina’s keeper, Romero; their attack led the Argentine back line into strife while Haghighi, the man guarding the Iranian goal, will be remembered for more than his all-black gloves. His daring saves will probably end his days in the Portuguese second division with a more attractive job offer in the near future.

Translated by Ben de Buen.