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IranSportsPress ISP – For that Hejazi will live forever

For that Hejazi will live forever


For that Hejazi will live forever – These are sad days for true Iranian fans, as one of their heroes struggles in his fight against cancer.

Life is too short. It was as if yesterday, saddened within Iransportspress community for Nasser Hejazi’s sudden hospitalization that I wrote this piece: “The sky is blue for Nasser Hejazi”

Sadly, as I’m writing this, the sky is no longer blue for Nasser Hejazi. Ever since mid 2009, Iran’s legendary goalkeeper has been fighting against lung cancer. Unfortunately, he has deteriorated in recent days and has had to be moved in to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Nasser Hejazi is so popular among masses of people, that at his hospital bed you see line-up of sympathized visitors. Amongst them are the famed football managers, players and officials sharing their grieves, sympathy and hopes, possibly in last days of Hejazi’s heroic life.

The grief is not limited to borders of Iran. The iconic Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, in a letter to Nasser Hejazi, expressed Manchester United’s sincere sympathy for Hejazi’s illness. “I know that the last few months have been difficult for you but trust that you will gain some comfort knowing that you are in our thoughts and prayers”, said Ferguson. A comforting letter to a man who was training and was once offered a contract by Manchester United, following his stellar performance at the 1978 World Cup. Only to be misfortune of Iran Football Federation’s late issue of permission letter during days of revolution, which affected his Manchester united contract process.

Hejazi’s playing record proves everything. Twice Asian champions with Iran, winning Asian Games title with Iran national team, the first Iranian goalkeeper to play in World Cup and a heroic performance for Iran national team at the World Cup 1978 in Argentina, ranked by AFC as 2nd best goalkeeper of the century in Asia, and 131st best goalkeeper in the world for keeping clean sheet for his national team for 5 months or record 837 minutes. Pity, at the time a member of Iran’s Sport ministry implemented a new rule to effectively ban athletes over 27 years of age to participate in any international competition. Sadly the first victim of this rule was acclaimed Nasser Hejazi to be forced to hang up his goalkeeping gloves as early as 29 years age. An insane rule that did not last long to the point that ironically today Iran’s National team average age hovers around 27!

But all these visitors, prayers, sympathies, poems, letters and messages are not because of his titles and honors. It is because of his gentle character, high integrity, consistent honesty, and his ever- lasting fighting spirit against corruption, injustices and mismanagements. In the days that deception, dishonesty, and fraud are the new thumb rule of success in every aspect of Iran society and ultimately football, having a man of honor pointing to the obvious flaws was more than a gift to our nation. His words of wisdom were a caution to the eyes of a blindfolded nation. A relief to the drowning football nation and a guidance for a lost game of so many.

For so many years, during and after Iran’s World Cup campaigns, among the usual numerous analysis and finger-pointing of so many , Nasser Hejazi kept whispering to our ears that “the main cause of Iranian football problems is the mismanagement by the wrong people. Poor results in World Cup are only facets of the problems. Iran has great potential to reach the heights if it is leveraged. ” He would name Japan and South Korea as success stories “due to their great long-term planning”. And Hejazi would slam the truth to our face that “In Iran, where there are upcoming competitions underway, a coach is selected so is an assistant coach. If Iran win the competition, fans and officials will go to beauty sleep for years. If Iran gets knocked out of competition, one person is named the guilty and other problems are forgotten.”

For so many years he criticized “Iran’s publicly funded football, lack of football management knowledge and excessive spending by two iconic -government-owned teams, Perspolis and Esteghlal.

In many instances, he pointed to the fact that “back in the old days, even until a decade ago, Iranian players would play for the love of the game, with less emphasis on their salary. For that, they achieved so much together. Nowadays, players play for money and fame only. To the point that many effortless players in Iran earn more than those professional players in Austria and Slovakia.” Isn’t that obvious these days in unmotivated games of many Iranian league players?
A frank fighter in true sense of the word, could not stand quiet during double digit inflation rate and extreme financial struggles of his countrymen in the aftermath of Iran government’s decision to lift subsidies. While as a cancer patient, he is prescribed to stay calm, to the very last moment, he speaks of his countrymen’s financial pain and the injustices on them. That-not medals- is the description of a legendary status. Yet ironically, these words have caused the most furious backlash by Iran officials against him, followed by complete media-black out.

As such, Hejazi remains a volcanic figure with a restless ill-fated body who ends his last interview with a quote from Gandhi: “My pain is not loneliness but it’s the death of a nation who considers poverty as contentment, incompetency as patience, and with a smile on lips, consider this naivety as destiny.”

Just like his national team career was cut short too early, the 62-years old’s fruitful life is being cut short to that of countdown clock. Let’s cherish Nasser Hejazi while he remains amongst us, and when he leaves us, let’s for once listen and take action on his years of wisdom words. For that, Nasser Hejazi lives forever.

Daei: Iran ready to defeat Kuwait

Press TV — Iran’s head coach Ali Daei is upbeat about performance of the national team, promising that Asia’s heavyweight will beat Kuwait.

Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, Daei, the former national team captain, said that three-time World Cup qualifier Iran is completely ready to face-off against Kuwait.

“We did not use our potential against Syria, now I hope Iran’s national team will play against Kuwait with the fewest number of mistakes to gain three points from the game,” the former Asian Player of the Year told reporters Sunday evening after Iran’s squad arrived in Kuwait.

Daei, Iran’s all-time leading scorer with 109 goals, voiced hope his team’s goalless streak will be snapped in the upcoming game as Iran has not scored in six matches.

“Iran is the stronger team; they have a lot of European-based players, but it will be difficult for them,” Kuwait’s Croatian coach Radion Gacanin told Reuters.

“In football, anyone can beat anyone. We are at home, we have to win and they have not played well lately, it’s been bad for them,” he added.

The three-time Asian champions had a goalless draw against Syria in Tehran in the opening match of Group Five of the Asian World Cup qualifying tournaments.