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Memory Lane: “The Black Pearl of Iran”

 

Fans across the world marveled at and cherished the moment the little Argentinian superstar Leo Messi, swerved and left his marker for dead,  then lobbed the best goalkeeper in the world to score Barcelona’s 2nd goal against Bayern Munchen.

It wasn’t long ago when we Team Melli fans, were heart broken when after a stiff resistance against mighty Argentine for 93 minutes, this mystic man scored a wonder goal to deny our Team Melli a famous precious point. However, despite such heart break, we have saluted this gem of a player, a unique individual who seems to have descended upon us from a different planet.

 For the purist and those who enjoy the beautiful and entertaining side of football, we are a fortunate generation because we have the likes of Messi providing sublime skills. Every nation wishes to have players half as good as Lionel Messi , every fan would pray that someday a player in his style , finesse and  brilliance will don the  national teamjersey of his country.

The individual genius of Messi has prompted us to dig in our archives to find if this Team Melli of ours had ever produced any players who were even closely comparable to Lionel Messi. If we ever had a player with the magic and style, the artistry and creativity. Surprise surprise, Team Melli had its own fair share of exceptionally talented players none of whom reached Messi’s level of course, but have displayed remarkable, often exceptional and excellent skills during the years bygone.

 

We did not have to go far to single out the “Black Pearl of Iran” as one who deserves more than a passing mention.

 BARZAGARI 486

Abdolreza Barzagari.

 

The boy from Abadan, who played his football in the back streets of this major oil industrial city, was soon spotted by scouts and invited to play with the major city team, Sanat Naft.  He was only 17 years old when he made his full debut for the club in the Takht Jamshid League, Iran’s thriving Professional league. Selected for the Iran Youth team in 1977 and won the Asian titles, and then less than a year later , made his debut for Team Melli at the age of 19.

 

Circumstances where not too favorable for this player. Political turmoil while Barzagari was reaching his peak, the suspension of the league and football in Iran, inability to get a release to play abroad were all detrimental to this exceptionally talented young Iranian player. Eventually after the revolution and when the football activities resumed, Barzagari got his break and was immediately grabbed by Al Nasr club of Dubai where he became an instant hit. His dribbles, magical goals, assist, demeanor , passion for the game, were all in the right track for this Khuzestani player towards prominence.

  iran1980

Barzagari also played for Qatar FC for 10 seasons and two season with the Egyptian side Al Masri club of Port Said and wherever he went , he left a legacy , lasting impressions and lots of good memories.

It was amazing that only a few days ago, an Arab TV reporter commenting on an AFC match involving Persepolis, mentioned the name of the great footballers that Iran has produced and this reported earmarked Abdolreza Barzagari for a special mention. The reporter expressed his own delight and those of thousands of Arab football fans at the class and the exceptional talents of Barzagari in the eighties.

Abdolreza Barzagari was hardly treated right by his own country’s football authorities. The fact he was playing as a legionnaire , prevented him playing for Team Melli. There was an unwritten law that Team Melli players were picked form footballers playing in Iran.

We could be accused of being biased towards an Iranian player by over rating Barzagari, especially that millions of Team Melli fans of the current generation might not have seen the wizardry of Barzagari and some even not heard of him.

 So, to put things in perspective, we have picked this article about the Black Pearl of Persia by a impartial reporter to describe what he has seen of Barzagari and leave the rest for you to judge.

 The Article was published in the Singapore newspaper “New Nation” during the round ribbon Olympic games 1980 Qualification matches.  Iran and Barzagari won the group and qualified for Moscow Olympics, but due to politics and boycott of the games by the Islamic Republic, the football World was deprived of enjoying the talents and magic of this Abadani player. We never got the chance to find how Barzagari would have done in front of Millions of World Wide TV viewers and critics. One golden opportunity has been surely missed.


 

 

New Nation,

14 March 1980, Page 33

Author: Suresh Nair

 undeniably the pearl

 

The Kallang battleground in the last 19 days provided a timely springboard for yet another Asian soccer star to emerge — the“Black Pearl of Iran.’

 

Abdolreza Barzegari, the little-known black Iranian attacking midfielder, not only won the hearts of local fans with his entertaining wizardry, respect from most opponents for his forages and acclaim

from his colleagues for being a match-winner, but he has also proved to coach Hassan Habibi that he has arrived.

 

ENTERTAINMENT PIECE

The time has now come tor Abdolreza to justifiably lay strong claims, with his authoritative skill and intelligence, to a regular berth in the National side, thus shedding his previous image as a ‘Super-substitute”.

The 22-year-old “Pearl” from Abadan, Khozestan Province, 600km from Tehran, has now also lived up to home fans’ billing as another midfield sensation like the ageing skipper Ali Parvin.

The quality in Abdolreza which wins him the New Nation’s Man of the

Tournament accolade Is ability to entertain fans, an important aspect In modern soccer.  of course, there were others whose performances came close to

Abdolreza’s. We considered the brilliance, economy and pace of Ali Parvin, the swiftness and elusiveness of China’s Gu Guangming, the magnificent goalkeeping of India’s Bhaskar Ganguly, the command of Iran right-back Habib Khabiri and even the passing of Singapore’s R. Suriamurthi.

But In short, Abdolreza, an unheralded youngster, was the crowd puller. His unpredictable skills, confidence and maturity tore the tightest defence, and his swiftness of thought In sardine-packed situations made him a one-man entertainment piece.

 

He was also the target of vicious tackling because he was skillful enough to ridicule experience defenders Luckily he managed to escape serious injury that were occupational hazards.

In fact this Is the mark of a superb footballer because he never retaliated. Instead, he “punished” his tormentors by ridiculing them further — either by pushing the ball between their legs or teasing them with his dazzling dribbles.

 

THE REMARKABLE GOAL

Remember the March 7th match against India?

Abdolreza’s 80th-minute opening goal — which we voted as the Best Goal of the Tournament! — epitomized his character. “The Pearl” started his Jinking, weaving run from midfield, leaving four Indians In his wake. As he leaped and feinted through a succession of sliding tackles Into the penalty area, In came the hardest tackle of them all.

Tough-tackling fullback Compton Dutta mercilessly went for Abdolreza’s left ankle.  But instead of crashing to the ground under the ferocity of the blow, Abdolreza superbly recovered his balance, made his way closer to the left bye-line and unleashed a perfectly-timed left-foot volley to the top left root of the net.

Another two goals against Sri Lanka, one against China and an opportunistic goal in the final against Singapore shot him to second spot in the top-scorers list — behind World Cupper Faraki HossaIn (six goals).

THE HORIZON OF STARDOM

Considering that Abdolreza was drafted into the Iran squad only a fortnight before coming here, it’s a feat. off the pitch, he is the wallflower of the team. A shy, Introverted person, he keeps to himself — away from his colleagues.  This has sometimes been interpreted as a case of unfriendliness, an unsociable sportsman. But it Is actually sheer respect and fear put together.

“I feel lost because I’m a nobody and a total stranger in a team lull of superstars,” Abdolreza said “I guess I need time adapt.”

Who can blame him.

But one thing’s for sure. If the pre-Olympics was meant to be was meant to be a test tor his international match temperament, you can be sure he will be a first-choice player for many years to come.

The horizons of Asian soccer stardom awaits him, and we hope to see this entertainer at Kallang again in the not too distant future

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