World Cup 2022: Iran: The crazy story of the keeper

Shepherd, homeless person, car washer, street sweeper, World Cup keeper: Alireza Beiranvand has experienced a lot at the age of 30 and is now in goal for Iran at the World Cup in Qatar. SPOX and GOAL tell his crazy story.

The Freedom Tower is located in the western part of the Iranian capital. It is an imposing building covered with white marble stones, the symbol of modern Tehran. Many homeless people spend their nights here, and the rocky road from Alireza Beiranvand also leads here. It’s the Iranian goalkeeper’s great willpower that brings him to this place, it’s his quest for freedom, independence and success that sees him overcome more hurdles, all the way to the World Cup.

Beiranvand was born in Sarabia in 1992. He grows up in a nomadic family and rarely stays in one place for long. The family is always looking for new grassland for their flock of sheep. Beiranvand has to lend a hand early on. As the eldest son in the family, he already has responsibilities as a child and learns to take on responsibility. He uses his limited free time to play soccer.

At the age of twelve, Beiranvand played for a local club for the first time. As a striker, he was responsible for scoring goals. Only when his team’s goalkeeper was injured did Beiranvand, who was already tall then and is now 1.95 meters long, step in. After the first game and a few strong actions, the necessity-born conversion turns out to be a permanent solution. Suddenly Beiranvand has to prevent goals – and discovers previously undreamt-of talents.

Alireza Beiranvand: Torn Gloves, Escape to Tehran

Beiranvand impresses his coaches and teammates with exceptional performances, but his life is complicated. Beiranvand’s conservative father Morteza sees no professional future in football and would like honest, physical work for his offspring. “My father didn’t like football at all and wanted me to work,” Beiranvand recalled Guardians. Morteza Beiranvand even rips up his kid’s training clothes and gloves to put a stop to his dream of playing professional football. “That’s why I had to play with my bare hands several times”, says Beiranvand.

At some point the boy will have had enough. Beiranvand decides to leave his family. He borrows money from a relative and travels to Tehran. All alone and determined to gain a foothold as a goalkeeper in the eight-million metropolis.

Beiranvand meets football coach Hossein Feinz on the bus ride to the capital. He is said to have stated that he wanted to give Beiranvand a chance. He can train with his team for a good 30 euros. But Beiranvand has neither money nor a place to sleep.

Beiranvand: “They thought I was a beggar”

At that time, Beiranvand was sleeping on the street not far from the Freedom Tower until one night a young trader offered to stay with him. Beiranvand agrees, only to turn back shortly thereafter. After all, he had no idea what awaited him there. Beiranvand walks to the club where he is currently doing a trial session. Completely exhausted after another hard day, he lies down on the club grounds.

“When I woke up the next morning, I saw that some people had left me some coins. They thought I was a beggar,” says Beiranvand. “After that I’ve had a good breakfast for a long time.”

During his time at the small club Vahdat FC, Beiranvand finds support with the father of a teammate, he works and sleeps in his textile factory. Finally off the road.

Ali Daei? “I was just too shy”

At the time, Beiranvand was also working in a car wash. Due to his size, he is quickly responsible for off-road vehicles, and Iranian soccer icon Ali Daei also has her car cleaned here regularly. Friends advise Beiranvand to approach the former Bayern Munich player. To ask for advice. To ask for help. But Beiranvand’s shame is too great. “I’m sure Mr. Daei would have helped me, but I was just too shy to approach him and tell him about my situation.”

At the age of 16, Iranian premier league club Naft Novin are giving Tehran Beiranvand a chance. At first, Beiranvand was allowed to stay in one of the club’s prayer rooms, “but at some point they told me that I couldn’t stay there permanently.”

Beiranvand finds a job in a pizzeria, where he can also stay overnight. One day, when his coach comes over and doesn’t know anything about his job, the boy hides. Just don’t attract attention now, Beiranvand thinks, but the owner forces the keeper to serve the food to his coach. Beiranvand resigned the following day. And because he can’t find a job with a place to sleep afterwards, he works as a street sweeper at night. The training units during the day are becoming more and more strenuous, the physical and mental stress is gradually increasing. Again and again hurdles appear in young Alireza’s life, also in sport.

Beiranvand: “Maybe it was fate”

During this time, Beiranvand is trying to find a new club in order to finally be able to finance a permanent home. Beiranvand has been sacked by Naft Novin because he is training at another club without consulting his club and also injured himself. Beiranvand then wants to switch to FC Homa, actually everything is already clear, but suddenly the manager hesitates to sign the contract. It is a moment of desperation, for the first time Beiranvand begins to doubt, until life finally means well with him.

The next day the Naft Novin U23 coach got in touch with Beiranvand. Probably also knowing about the extraordinary talent of the goalkeeper, he holds out the prospect of a second chance for Beiranvand. “He told me I could come back if I hadn’t signed a contract yet. Maybe it was fate that the Homa manager didn’t want to sign me. Otherwise I might never have reached the level I’m at now,” says Beiranvand to the Guardians .

Back at Naft, knowing that his big dream almost ended a few days earlier and that this chance could be his last, Beiranvand just keeps getting better. He is nominated for Iran’s national youth teams, making his senior debut in 2015 just after his 22nd birthday. In 2016, the move to the Iranian record champions Persepolis Tehran followed, in 2017, 2018 and 2020 Beiranvand won the title with the club, which had previously triumphed for the last time in 2008. The hard times are finally over.

Shock moment at the 2022 World Cup

Beiranvand has been enchanting fans with his saves for years in Iran, but his trademark is different and stems from a game from his youth. As a child, Beiranvand threw stones with friends for years, the only aim being to throw the heavy boulders as far into the landscape as possible. It is precisely this ability that Beiranvand takes advantage of. He throws the ball further than others, his throws reach deep into the opponent’s half and are also incredibly precise.

After attracting attention to himself with strong performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he experienced a moment of shock right at the start of the tournament in Qatar against England. Beiranvand clashed with team-mate Majid Hosseini in the early stages and had to be substituted after a long break in treatment with suspected concussion and a broken nose.

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