You’re excused for not knowing who Alireza Beiranvand is, because unless you’re a diehard Iran fan, chances are you’ve never heard the name before.
If you want to announce yourself on the World Cup stage as a keeper, then, there are few better ways to do so than saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.
That’s just what 25-year-old Alireza did on Monday evening, springing to his left to stop the Portuguese maestro, in a match that almost saw the reigning European champions dumped out of the tournament.
Decent reflexes here:
It’s even more dramatic when you listen to this kid narrating the whole thing:
That gasp is classic.
We featured Romelu Lukaku’s life story last week – if you missed that, you should do yourself a favour and read this. If one does some digging into Alireza’s background, there’s a decent story there, too.
The Washington Post did the digging:
Beiranvand, who is playing in his first World Cup, was born to a nomad family in a rural province of western Iran. He found free time while working as a shepherd to play soccer, joining a local team in the village of Sarab-e Yas when he was 12, the Guardian reported.
When his father objected to him pursuing the sport professionally, Beiranvand borrowed money from a relative and ran away to Tehran, Iran’s capital. Arriving with neither money nor accommodations, the young player set up camp outside the football club where he trained.
“I slept by the club’s door, and when I got up in the morning, I noticed the coins that people had dropped for me,” he told the Guardian. “They had thought I was a beggar! Well, I had a delicious breakfast for the first time in a long while.”
He was eventually allowed to train with a team full time. But even then, the Iranian keeper had to take on jobs at a dressmaking factory, a carwash and a pizza shop to make ends meet, slipping in and out of homelessness during this period.
He made his professional debut in 2011, and became renowned for his ability to hurl the ball miles.
OK – 230 feet, or around 70 metres. Start from 2:10 below:
Over the past few years, life has been good to him:
…Beiranvand was recruited by one of the biggest clubs in Asia, Persepolis Football Club, and quickly became its highest-valued player at more than $1 million. Most recently, he replaced longtime national goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi in the team’s starting lineup.
So even though Iran’s 2018 World Cup aspirations came to an end with the 1-1 draw to Portugal yesterday, Beiranvand and the path he took to the world stage has still left many Iranians feeling as though they are going home with a champion.
I guess that’s part of the joy of the World Cup. For every Messi or Ronaldo moment (or Maradona completely off his rocker), there’s a relative unknown who proves themselves on the biggest stage of all.
He’ll be telling people about that penalty save for as long as he lives.
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