Legends of International Football - Ali Daei
In the past few years, football has grown by leaps and bounds. It has conquered new markets and has created a furore like the world has never seen before. The vast commercialization of the clubs has made even average footballers household names all over the world. The constant spotlight gives them a hero-like status.
That is in total contrast to the days from a decade ago, when players had to prove their mettle, toiling hard season after season, battling relegation dog fights, winning club titles, ensuring their country qualified for major international tournaments, beating the odds over and again. And in the process, making a name for themselves – becoming a legend.
And that is how the story of Ali Daei can be outlined. From an engineering graduate playing for his home town club to playing for the biggest German club, and finally coaching and managing teams; all the while scoring a record number of goals for his country and propelling the national team to previously unscaled heights.
Daei is undoubtedly the most influential player in Iranian football, and it is safe to say he single-handedly lifted Iran out of footballing obscurity.
Daei played for his hometown club Esteghlal Ardabil, then Taxirani FC, and finally represented another Tehran-based club Bank Tejarat FC during the years of the Iran – Iraq war, which devastated the country and left its football reeling at its lowest point.
The national team needed a life, a talisman. Enter a tall, powerfully built, accomplished striker capable of finding the net at will. 19 days after his national team debut, Daei scored his first international goal. And that was the point of no return. He never stopped scoring after that.
‘The Wizard of Tehran’ went on to score 109 international goals in 148 games for Iran. He broke the record for the most number of international goals, previously held by Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas. His record becomes even more impressive when one considers the fact that he was called up to the national team only after he turned 24. He still remains the only male footballer in the world to have scored more than a century of international goals.
|World Cup Qualifiers|
|Asian Championship Q.|