Hassanzadeh: We want to change the way people see Iran

23 Sep 2021
  • Ali Hassanzadeh is one of the best players in Asian futsal history

  • Lithuania 2021 is his fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup™

  • He's anxious for Team Melli to receive more recognition

Argentina conceded a solitary goal in their third and final match in Group F of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™, a goal worthy of the big stage. The move that let to it began with a backheel and ended with a stunning lob over a defender and the goalkeeper into the goal, which measures a mere three metres by two, all from fewer than ten yards out. Had it been scored by Falcao, Ricardinho or Ferrao – three of the greats of the game – the whole world would have been talking about it. The marksman happened to be Ali Hassanzadeh, who wears the shirt and the captain’s armband of IR Iran, something of which he is no doubt proud, even if it means he enjoys a lower profile than some of the game’s other leading lights. Appearing at his fourth Futsal World Cup, Hassanzadeh has a career record like few others and a talent that puts most of the world’s other futsal players in the shade. “It’s something I talk about a lot with my team-mates and they always say to me: ‘If your name was Hassanzadinho, Hassanzadao or something like that, you’d be seen as one of the best players on the planet’,” he joked to FIFA.com. “I honestly don’t see it as all that important, though. The fact that I’m not seen as one of the best isn’t frustrating for me. I just try to focus on my game and to enjoy what I’m doing. That’s enough for me.”

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Ali Hassan Zadeh of Iran scores their team's first goal during the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 group F match between IR Iran and Argentina at Vilnius Arena on September 20, 2021 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Yet the question remains: how is it possible that a player who has won four AFC Futsal Championships, as many AFC Player of the Year awards, and who led IR Iran to third place at Colombia 2016 hardly ever gets a mention when the topic of the best futsal players in the world comes up for discussion? Attempting to answer that question, the winger said: “Asian teams have a technique and tactics all of their own. They play a more organised, team-oriented game that’s probably less entertaining and revolves fewer around star players. That maybe explains why our players get less exposure than the ones who play for the big European and South American teams.” While the modest Hassanzadeh is not at all put out by the lack of praise for his individual skills, he struggles to comprehend the lack of recognition given to his team. “It’s not very often that we’re named among the favourites or the big guns in world futsal,” lamented Hassanzadeh, a key performer in that run to third at Colombia 2016, the best performance ever by an Asian team in the history of the competition. “That’s why we want to do well in the World Cup. "It shows us where we stand in relation to the other teams and it gives us more visibility than any other tournament. We’re here to change the way people see us, to change people’s opinions of Asian teams and of Iran in particular.”

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Damian Stazzone of Argentina celebrates with team mates after scoring their team's second goal during the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 group F match between IR Iran and Argentina at Vilnius Arena on September 20, 2021 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™

Match Highlights: IR Iran v Argentina

20 Sep 2021

Aside from their desire for greater recognition, Team Melli have another source of motivation ahead of their last-16 tie against Uzbekistan: memories of their stoppage-time semi-final defeat to Russia at Colombia 2016. “Most of the players who are here were on the court that day,” said Hassanzadeh. “We talk about it a lot and we remember how painful it was. "We don’t want to go through that again. We’re aiming higher, though we have to be realistic. The matches are getting tougher and tougher and the teams more and more professional. We know it will be hard, but our goal is to go one step further, to the final.” Though the Iranians just missed out on the showpiece match five years ago, they enjoyed a magnificent run to the last four, knocking out defending champions and tournament favourites Brazil in the Round of 16. It was an unforgettable achievement, made all the more so by the fact it was the last game of the legendary Falcao’s career. “It was a very special moment,” recalled Hassanzadeh, a goalscorer that day. “Nobody thought we could beat Brazil. It was a game of contrasting emotions, though. We had the immense joy of beating the world’s best team, mixed with the immense sadness of knowing we’d never see Falcao again, the most spectacular player the game has ever produced.” If IR Iran’s 2016 campaign was memorable for that and other reasons, their 2021 adventure may yet end with World Cup glory and global recognition, all achieved under a captain who is not called Hassanzadao or Hassanzadinho but Ali Hassanzadeh, one of the best players in the world.

BUCARAMANGA, COLOMBIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Falcao #12 of Brazil tries for a bicycle kick as Hamid Ahmadi #5 of Iran during round of 16 match play between Brazil and Iran in the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup at Coliseo Bicentenario on September 21, 2016 in Bucaramanga, Colombia.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016

Brazil 4-4 Iran (2-3 PSO) (Colombia 2016)

22 Sep 2016

BUCARAMANGA, COLOMBIA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Ali Hassan Zadeh #7 is congratulated by teammate Mohammad Keshavarz #4 after Zadeh tied the game at 3-3 as Falcao #12 of Brazil hangs his head during round of 16 match play in the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup at Coliseo Bicentenario on September 21, 2016 in Bucaramanga, Colombia. Brazil and Iran played to a 4-4 draw after full-time. Iran went on to defeat Brazil 3-2 on penalty kicks.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)