The name Ali Daei rings out proudly in Asian football circles, especially so in the former striker's native Iran. With 109 goals to his name in just 148 appearances for Team Melli (as Iran is nicknamed), he is far-and-away the top scorer in the history of international football and is unlikely to be caught out any time soon.
Now coach of Saipa FC, Daei who is regarded as the best Iranian player in history and one of Asia's true greats is in Durban, South Africa as one of the assistants for the Preliminary Draw for the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010. The first Asian player ever to line up for German giants Bayern Munich is hoping intently to bring a bit of luck to his beloved national team when the ceremony rolls on Sunday.
"I will be hoping to bring good tidings to the national team at this draw," said the former Hertha BSC Berlin and Armenia Bielefeld goal-getter. "I am wishing the team and all the fans all the success in the world and hoping that the draw is good to them."
Having retired from international football following the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006, he carried on playing club ball for a season before hanging up his boots after en emotional farewell match in May of 2007. Befitting his talismanic status, he was immediately named the Saipa's manager.
Still the icon of Iranian football, Daei, now 38, is humble when asked if anyone can take his place and get the same kind of scoring output for the national team. "There will be no next Ali Daei, but maybe there will be one who is better. There are a lot of promising young strikers in the country and I hope they can come good and help to reach South Africa.
To see the complete FIFA.com video interview with Ali Daei, click on the link to the right.