Four Tiny Tidbits On: Iran

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The World Cup is ominously close! So that you aren't caught offside (they have that in soccer, right?), we're previewing all the participants, bringing you Four Things You Don't Know About Them. If you have a tidbit, send it along to Today: Iran! And for World Cup previews that are even better than ours, check out That's On Point, who helped us with these as well.

1. Nothing But Lip Service. Whatever happens, Iran will most likely lead the World Cup in formidable mustaches. Ali Daei, who has scored 109 goals in 146 caps and is considered by many as Iran's soccer icon, draws strength from his "buffo" style mustache. If he ever shaved it people might jump off of a building in Tehran.


2. Mission Accomplished, Reza. Some interesting nuggets gleaned from Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World — during the 1998 World Cup, Iranian officials blocked out shots of the crowd on television because of protests toward the conservative government; In 1920, Reza Shah used soccer as a way to Westernize the country (and a lot of good it did him).

3. Are There Any Women Here Today? As soccer-crazy as the Iranians claim to be, a specialized form of Persian wrestling called Varzesh-e Pahlavani is actually the national sport. (How conservative clerics condone man-on-man action over soccer is a question we're not qualified to answer). In fact, to many conservatives, soccer is a symbol of the West and is shunned. Women have been forbidden to attend games. For the World Cup, however, Iran is allowing women to watch the matches as a form of "chastity."


4. Parking Is A Bitch. Tehran's Azadi Stadium is one of, it not the largest in the world. Believe it or not, the stadium's name translates to 'peace.' International games there regularly attract crowds of 100,000. Many of the team's leading players ply their trade in Germany in the Bundesliga, such as Mehdi Makhdavikia of SV Hamburg. Oh, and Ali Karimi, known as the Wizard of Tehran (F, Bayern Munich).

(Tomorrow: Angola)

(UPDATE: From a reader: "As a native speaker of Persian, I can assure you that 'Azadi' means Freedom or Liberty Stadium." We're not sure why that sounded weird to us.)