I have played soccer -- or futbol as it is called in many parts of the world -- ever since I was in the 3rd grade, and continue to this day. Back then, I was fortunate enough to study in an interesting, experimental, and progressive school in Iran, called Dabestan-e Farhad, under the leadership of a very caring and energetic principal known to all the students as Touran Khanoum. She was, and still is, a fascinating individual with a lot of passion and energy for her job. One of her main current projects is to oversee the publication of a multi-volume encyclopedia for children and Young People in Persian language. Here in an interesting article on this work, translated from German into English. A website is recently established for disseminating news about this encyclopedia. Our principal, Ms. Touran Mirhadi studied child education and psychology and sociology, in Sorbonne, I believe, and took great pains in providing a school that was an inspiration to many of the kids who had the opportunity to study at Farhad, me included.
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Unfortunately, the same principal had some rather short-sighted understanding about sports, if I may say so. I recall that soccer was generally prohibited, while basketball generally encouraged. The reason, I was told, was that the leadership of the school, was of the opinion that soccer was not a very good sports for the kids our age (5-12 year old) because it would exert extra pressure on the skeleto-muscular and anatomical structure in a way that would results in the kids who play a lot of soccer not to grow very tall, and would result in those who play too much soccer to become short individuals. As a results, the students were discouraged from playing soccer during the lunch breaks or during other recess.
So, soccer enthusiasts like myself used to find some far corner in the schoolyard to engage in our game, and since soccer ball was so obvious and attention-grabbing from even far distance, and would give away our secret that we were engaged in playing futbol, we had come up with an ingenious plan: We had a "Wooden Block" as our soccer ball -- no kidding -- not to mention a lot of bruises to our shins and knees as a result of playing with a wooden block as our ball and being shot in the shin when trying to block the "ball" that was coming our way!
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Later on, as I entered the middle school and high school, I learned to play with other, more "realistic" soccer balls, which used to be the same kind most kids played with on the street. Those were plastic balls, often made double-layered by putting one on top of another -- to make it less bouncy. We used them to play soccer with small goals (Gol-Koochik) on the street. It was not until late years in high school that I graduated to the actual soccer ball. It took me way into college to learn to play with them effectively. Mid way into high school, however, I was introduced to the regular soccer ball, which required very different set of skills to play with effectively. With the "modernization" of the cities and the expansions of the highways and wide roads on the one hand, and the increased population on the other, those soccer games using plastic balls on the street that I used to engage in, have gradually given ways to more organized games in the clubs and sports parks, it seems. On my recent visits I have not seem many instances of gol-koochik played on street corners and alleys in Tehran.
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Anyways, I was reminded of all this recently as I watched an interesting tapestry of a documentary about futbol and how it is played across the globe. The movie is called Pelada, and is the story of two young American soccer enthusiasts who failed to make it to the major leagues despite their love and passion for the game. So, after some soul searching, they decided to explore the world and experience first hand how the game is played by ordinary people around the globe.
As you watch the story of these two soccer enthusiasts and their journey, you will experience many of the nuances and amazing stories around the lives of the people who share some memorable moments playing soccer with the two Americans, or shall I say allow the two Americans to participate and share in their joy of playing the game. Highly entertaining. Enjoy!