Azadi Stadium.

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"What happened?", I remarked while looking to the other side of the ticket office where a man in military uniform was beating customers who had just arrived. "This is Iran", came an ambiguous response, one that seems to be a common answer to this common question. We funneled through the attempt of a turnstile, parted with surprisingly little cash through a semicircular hole in an otherwise painted-out window, only to be met with swinging batons seemingly functioning as crowd control. Army officers struck at rears, demanding customers (men only, woman are not allowed to spectate) to clear the exit of the turnstiles. We were being herded, quite literally. This troubled me somewhat but it was only after the match that it became clear that we were treated like animals because we behaved like ones.

The match was to be the last of the season and to also present the home team, Esteghlal, with the 1385 Iranian football league trophy, regardless of the result. Due to this, the stadium exceeded capacity, filling stairwells, pathways and even the perimeter wall. The stadium was dangerously packed and if we weren't imprisoned by our very bodies, then we were by the volumes of security that held us all in. I observed the stadium fill, amused at seeing empty areas occupied by people filling the shaded shapes created by the flood-lights. I heard later that day that over 100,000 people attended, filling the stadium with universal blue attire and much foul language. Even my well bred friends regressed to thugs, polluting the air with obscenities and joining in with the occasional verbal tussle. Supporters fell like dominos as they negotiated the dense crowds and with every person that stood up came a chorus of "SIT DOWN!"s. I was tired, hot and uncomfortable with cigarette smoke relentlessly finding my eyes and people repeatedly falling on my back, yet all the time grateful that I didn't need to exit at any point for the John.

Four orange-shirts arrived in a vacant area on the north-side attracting nearly twenty blue-shirts at pace. After a brief skirmish among a cheering crowd victory was claimed as two blues-shirts - arms raised - stopped to reap the praise from roughly 70,000 jubilant onlooking spectators. This was the only inter-club bout I saw that day, probably due to them being the only orange-shirts available, yet the club-on-club bouts, fueled by the sun's heat, sprouted randomly around the benches during the 3-hour wait.

The sounds and visuals created by the crowd were mesmerizing: incomprehensible roars would drift in an out like trains passing platforms, preceded ever so slightly by the glittering flags and banners that rippled with the sound. Various chants would prompt new gestures only to be halted by further more insults or praises shouted in unison.

The game happened, and seemed to happen relatively quickly, with Esteghlal managing to put in four rather neat goals during the 90-minutes - each time allowing for men to kiss men between the abuse. During extra-time the visiting team slipped one by the goalkeeper, which failed to be noticed by the supporters who had already begun lighting newspapers as a symbol of victory. Darkness arrived, flood-lights lit and firework were set off as the season found its winner.

A tedious 1-hour wait in the car-park upon exiting was made more so by the many competing car sound-systems that blended in an out of a mixture of 4-songs. The highway was blocked carrying many celebrating supporters who leapt between cars, dancing to the limited music. The police seemed only observant to this illegal activity and the ambulance workers were unperturbed by supporters carelessly waving banners while sitting out of the car windows. I might erroneously consider that the day's behavior is unique to Iran but surely it isn't a case of, "this is Iran" but rather, "this is football".


  • I liked this entry very much - a great read !

    By Anonymous Laura Mousavi, at 1:56 AM  

  • i like the new design of your site, but i still dont get why some things are crossed out in your side bar. you know, like blogsbyiranians has a line going through it

    By Blogger نیکی, at 7:44 AM  

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,1760745,00.html !!!!

    As it suggests I'm sure it's just a move to get those within the country less angry about what is going, especially this possible NPT withdrawal (have you heard about this?) but I'm still happy. I actually may get to see Azadi stadium... loosely tied roosari and all...

    I'm baffled by this newspaper-burning bit though and wonder what it's from ? Isn't it more satisfying to just yell out in joy than hold a quickly-burning bit of paper which you've got to stomp out in thirty seconds?

    Anyway, I love this entry, a view rarely given into Iran, maybe this is why.

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 8:17 AM  

  • The new design is great. I love the DDMMYYYY on the flag but I can't decipher 5 other characters?! Truely a British-Iranian design: Union Jack with Iranian Colours!

    By Anonymous aa, at 2:26 PM  

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