Watch: Iranian fans create Azadi magic at Fifa World Cup in Qatar

When Roozbeh Cheshmi finally found the back of the net with a magnificent right-footer from outside the box, the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium erupted in deafening noise as the Wales players dropped to their knees



By Rituraj Borkakoty in Doha

Published: Fri 25 Nov 2022, 7:41 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Nov 2022, 7:43 PM

Few arenas in the football world are more intimidating for the away teams than Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, the home ground for Iran’s international matches, including the tough World Cup qualifiers.

It’s a stadium that reverberates with the roar of 78,000 Iranians in every game, sending chills down the spine of every rival team even before they could kick the ball.

The Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium at the Qatar World Cup, with a capacity of 45,000, isn’t quite the Azadi Stadium in size.

But on Friday, thousands of Iranian fans draped in their national colours created the Azadi magic in Qatar, singing and beating drums, roaring their approval at the waves of their team's attacks on the Wales team who were hanging on for their dear lives.

Before Roozbeh Cheshmi broke the deadlock in the 98th minute, the loudest noise came when the referee had to pull out the red card for the Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey after he floored an Iranian attacker with a flying kick outside the box in a desperate attempt to protect his goal.

When Cheshmi finally found the back of the net with a magnificent right-footer from outside the box, the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium erupted in deafening noise as the Wales players dropped to their knees.

After the myriad attacks on the Wales box, they finally found the shot that could earn them redemption following their embarrassing 6-2 defeat to England in the opening game.

But there was still time for one more goal after the end of Iran’s frustrating wait for the first.

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Stunned by the relentless aggression from the Iranians, the Wales players, many of who play in the English Premier League, were misplacing their passes.

It was from one of those lapses that the second goal came as Ramin Rezaeian finished off the contest in rousing fashion.

It was only Iran’s third victory in the World Cup since their debut in the world’s biggest sporting event in 1978 — and one that made many an Iranian man cry tears of joy in the stands.

One such man was Mohammed who travelled from Dubai with his wife Neelu to support his national team at the World Cup.

“It’s the happiest day of my life. I had a feeling that we could beat Wales. But they (Wales) were defending well. They have big players like Gareth Bale. But our team kept fighting hard for this win,” said Ahmed who lives in Downtown Dubai.

“So we are very happy and proud of our team. The whole experience of coming here with my wife and witnessing this match, this victory for Iran, we will never forget this in our life.”

Mohammed, another Iranian fan who has travelled from Tehran for the World Cup with his friends, said he was jumping for joy when the goals finally came in the end.

“I actually gave up hope when they missed many chances in the second half. So I was jumping up and down when they finally got those goals in the injury time. We are so happy. Now we believe we can win the last match too (against USA),” Mohammed said.

Mohammed was also happy to have played the role of the 12th man for the Iranian team alongside his compatriots at the stadium, by cheering the players on in every moment of the hard-fought battle against Wales on Friday.

“Yes, we had to do it. We had to sing and support our team. Now we are ready to do it again in the next game against USA.”

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The next one could be a make-or-break clash for both Iran and USA with a place in the round of 16 up for grabs.

And it’s not just the Iranian team that will challenge the Americans as they will also need to deal with the raw passion of these amazing Iranian supporters at Al Thumama Stadium on November 29.


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