Ali Daei (52 years old) is a national idol in Iran. He is known as the true Shahriar (King). He stood out in the late 80s and early 90s in the Taxiraini, Bank Tejarat and Persepolis, just as his country was coming out of the war against Iraq. Despite the difficult times in which he was born, he managed to be a professional soccer player and became a metallurgical engineer. He even became a second lieutenant in the air forces of his country between 1993 and 1994. At 1.92 tall, he was a footballer who handled both legs well in front of goal, with a good aerial game. Some dubbed him the Iranian Ian Rush. Daei was one of the protagonists of the party that was called the “most politically charged in history” by the magazine FourFourTwo. It was a meeting between the Iranian National Team and the United States for the 1998 World Cup in France, which had a very special flavor due to all the political conflicts that existed up to that moment between the two countries (2-1 for Iran). He was an ambassador for Unicef and after playing his last national team match, in 2006, he was appointed a member of the FIFA Football Committee, where he remained from June 2007 to 2013.
When he made the leap to Europe, just before he had played a season at Al-Sadd, in Qatar (where Raúl and Xavi played), accumulating 29 goals in 38 games with Iran. In Germany it lived its golden age. They also called him the Iranian Maradona. After three seasons at Hertha, Franz Beckenbauer recruited him for Bayern Munich, where he also made history by becoming the first Asian player to score in the Champions League. He scored 25 goals in 146 games in Europe. Of the 109 goals with Iran, 95 went to Asians, five to Europeans, three to Africans, two to Conmebol and three to Concacaf teams. Cristiano Ronaldo, with his double against France, has reminded us of the figure of this footballer. He assures us that his goals for the national team were 111, but FIFA says that a clash with Afghanistan at the 2002 Asian Games was with the Olympic team and not the senior team. Serves AS from Iran.
When you were 11 years old, you started a war with Iraq that lasted 8 years. How did the possibility of becoming a footballer arise in such a delicate situation?
During my childhood I only had two passions, soccer and studying. Wars only bring back bad memories no matter where and how old you are. I always wish peace for the world and I hope that one day we will see the world without struggle and war.
It is not normal to see a footballer in Europe with university studies. How did you start studying Metallurgical Engineering?
Actually, my first goal in life was to study and finish my academic studies, which is the promise I made to my father.
Is your Champions League double against Chelsea your best football memory?
All my soccer goals bring back great memories but of course some of them were special like goals from new Chelsea and AC Milan and more or less all the goals for my national team.
What is the worst memory of your career?
My injury against the Bahrain team, I had to play with injury for almost 60 minutes.
Why did your record last so long?
I expected Cristiano to be the one to break my record (smiles). I actually scored 111 goals, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Because of the way Cristiano plays and the level of form he is in, I am sure he will score many more goals.
So you only thought that Cristiano could unseat you …
Yes, I firmly believe that Ronaldo deserves to achieve this record. For a player like him to reach my record is like another record for me. It is a pride.
Was your record being talked about so much when you got it back in the day?
Yes, I had quite a few interviews on this subject in those days.
Cristiano said you were an idol …
I think it is very humble of him to refer to me that way, I am very grateful.
In his time as a footballer he played against Barça against a very young Xavi, Figo and even Luis Enrique. That remember?
Playing against the best in the world always brings back great memories. I was lucky during my time, I played with such stars.
He arrived at Arminia Bielefeld with another of Iran’s great players, Karim Bagheri. Was that a miracle?
I wouldn’t call it a miracle, because I worked and trained hard to achieve all the goals set in my life.
As a coach that you are, give me an ideal eleven for this European Championship?
As you mentioned, I’m a coach, so I need to know what team I’m playing against, in order to organize myself properly (laughs).
Are there any current players who look like Ali Daei?
Any player who works hard and is committed to his training.
How well Ali Daei bargains in interviews. Were the players with mustaches always more classy?
No, it works differently (laughs).
Bayern paid 2.5 million euros for you in 1999. How much would they have paid for you today?
We had to ask the Bayern Munich sports director. But my time in Germany was the best moment of my football life. I have great memories of my time there and I am always grateful to the Germans.
What do you like the most about Spanish football? Did you ever think about playing in our country?
I like Spanish football for its tactics, its technique and, most importantly, its passion. In my time as a footballer I received offers from almost every country in Europe
Do you like Madrid or Barça?
I always cheered on Bayern and Barcelona, but in the last season I haven’t enjoyed how Barça played.
“I like Spanish football their tactics, their technique and their passion. Luis Enrique was a magnificent player, but he could become a better coach “
I see you may like tiki-taka …
Tiki-taka is for football like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for music.
What would Madrid be in Iran and what would Barça be?
In Iran we have two very popular clubs, Perspolis FC and Esteghla Fc.
As a culé, what do you think of Luis Enrique?
He was a magnificent player and I think he could even become a better coach.
Tell me any Iranian player that we can see soon in Europe or Spain.
We have so many talented soccer players in Iran who could play in the European Union, but they need to be given a chance. We have players like Sardar Azmon and Mehdi Taromi and many more.
Can Asian football ever become European?
I wait it. We have very good talent in Iran and Asia.