The Tehran derby football game stirs up emotions in Iran
The Tehran derby football game stirs up emotions in Iran

There is a lot of excitement among football fans in Tehran before Wednesday’s derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. These two teams have been rivals for decades, and their rivalry has caused emotions in both sports and politics.

It is one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and both teams play there. The 103rd Tehran Derby will fill it to the brim with fans.

“This is the most important game.” “The atmosphere is crazy and amazing to experience,” Kevin Yamga, the only French player in Iran, told AFP.

“Half of the stands are all blue, and the other half are all red,” Yamga said. Since joining the blues of Esteghlal in 2021, he has played in five derbies.

Fans journey hundreds of kilometers to get to the capital and then spend the night near the stadium to make sure they get a good seat.

“It’s a very, very strong rivalry, comparable to that between the clubs of Manchester – United and City – or of Glasgow – Celtic and Rangers,” said Yamga.

The Frenchman, on the other hand, won’t play on Wednesday because he’s hurt.

The Persian Gulf Pro League is the top football league in Iran, and both teams play in it.

With 11 games to go, Esteghlal is three points ahead of the current champions, Persepolis, at the top of the table.

This year, for the first time in Iran’s history, a woman will be on the judging team for a men’s game.

Mahsa Ghorbani, 34, will watch the game with two other people as video aid referees, but he won’t be on the field.

Ghorbani’s job marks the start of a new era in the closed world of Iranian men’s football, where women have rarely been seen in the stands.

After decades of trying to get into stadiums, 3,000 Iranian women were finally able to go to their first derby last year. FIFA was happy about this.

One of Iran’s most famous sports reporters, Ebrahim Afshar, said, “Iranian women have shown that they can get their rights, even though football is run by men.”

“And one day, one of them will become the main referee.”

The two most well-known clubs in the Islamic Republic have also had an impact on the country’s politics over the years.

Esteghlal, which means “independence” in Persian, is thought to be the club of powerful people. It was started in 1945 by a powerful military leader and was originally called Taj, which means “crown” of Tehran.

Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Pahlavi family ruled Iran. The club was linked to that dynasty.

Persepolis, on the other hand, was started in 1967 by a boxing winner with the goal of being the people’s club.

As it turned out, some Persepolis players were happy to be part of the shah’s secret police, and some Taj players were from the left, which was against the Iranian monarchy, Afshar said.

Both clubs made it through the Islamic Revolution, whose leaders saw football as a hobby pushed by the old regime to keep people from thinking about “serious issues.”

After 45 years, politics is still important to both sides’ fan groups, who accuse each other of getting money from the government.

Because they are so rivalry, famous people have had to hide their teams’ colors to avoid being criticized by fans of the other team.

So far, 49 of the 102 games have finished in draws. Persepolis has won 27 games and Esteghlal has won 26.

“The history of the derby has shown that the pressure is such that the result is often decided on an act of play, a throw of the dice, rather than on the quality of the teams,” Afshar said.

There probably won’t be another game like the 6-0 loss that Persepolis had over Esteghlal in 1973. Fans of Iran’s most famous club are very proud of that game.

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