Sport in Iran

Sport in Iran

Many sports are practiced in Iran, both traditional and modern. Tehran, for example, was the first city in the Middle East to host the Asian Games in 1974, and continues to host and participate in major international sporting events to this day.

Some sports, such as figure skating or professional dancing, are in conflict with Islamic Sharia law and therefore not practiced by Iranian athletes. [ [ BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Iran court slaps ban on dancer ] ] portal|Iran|Flag of Iran.svg|48


Sports and athletic exercises were among the most fundamental daily pursuits of the people in ancient Iran.

The society attached special status to sportsmen who thanks to their physical strength and courage, defended their family and homeland when the need arose.

They were welcomed everywhere with much enthusiasm, the people took much pride in their sportsmen and praised and admired them for their courageous deeds.

According to their religious teaching, the Iranian Zoroastrians in their prayers sought first the beauties of heaven and then physical strength and mental power. They believed in a healthy and powerful body.

The ancient Iranians attached spiritual meaning to their spoils activities which they modelled on their weapons. Even the Mages (religious sages) while engaging in prayers in their temples held a mace in their hands, not unlike the Bntish bishops who hung swords on their belts.

Avesta, the sacred book of the ancient religions of Iran glorifies the champions and sportsmen as much, if not more than saints and men of God. The older generation made arrangements for the ancient narratives and epics to be read to the young either from books or from those who had learned them from their elders.

This tradition has survived until today and outlived the rest of ages. Thus, even today, it can be observed that among the tribes and in the tea- houses storytelling is practised with the same enthusiasm as it was in bygone ages.

The extent to which the Iranians were interested in their heroes and champions is revealed, among other things, by the fact that in the Persian language there are over 30 words to label the concept of a hero or champion.

In ancient Iran, youths under 24 years of age received thorough training in the sport of their time which included miming, horsemanship, polo, dart throwing, wrestling, boxing, archery, fencing, etc. They were taught under conditions of severe hardship so that when the need arose they could endure the adverse conditions of war such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, heat, cold, etc.

Traditional sports


Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, particularly freestyle, are incredibly popular in Iran, often even referred to as its national sport. With a history of great wrestlers, such as Gholamreza Takhti, and considerable success in Olympic and World Championships, Iran is considered among the elite nations in the sport (along with the US and the former Soviet Bloc). One particular wrestler, Khosrow Vaziri, went on to compete in American professional wrestling under the name "The Iron Sheik".


It is believed that Polo first originated in Persia ages ago. The poet Firdowsi described royal polo tournaments in his 9th century epic, the Shahnameh.

Despite the emphasis in Islam on learning the equestrian arts, in modern times, especially after the revolution, the equestrian sports fell out of favor in Iran, as they were associated with the aristocracy. And yet recent signs suggest that it may be witnessing a comeback [ [ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Polo comes back home to Iran ] ] with renewed interest in the sport. [ [] ]

Sports in Iran


Backgammon is a game that has had a following in Persia since ancient times. [ [] ] Like Chess and some card games, it fell out of official favor after the revolution. However, this did not diminish its popularity with the general population. In recent years, restrictions on the game have been softened, but tournaments have yet to be officially sanctioned. And that is why backgammon is considered a traditional sport.


The origin of chess is a disputed issue, but evidence exists to give credence to the theory that chess originated in Persia, and later found its way into the Indian subcontinent. For example, the earliest recorder history of chess is to be found in Persian writing, and the earliest chess pieces found also being from Persian. All of this evidence lends weight to the theory that chess in Persia ("Shatranj") pre-dated chess in India ("Chatrang"). Chess later spread from Persia into other nations in the Islamic world.

Popular sports


Football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport in Iran. Iran has been able to reach the FIFA World Cup three times, and its national team is among the football elite in Asia. Particularly in the past 10 years, with the privatization of soccer clubs and the launch of Iran's Premier Football League, considerable progress has been made. Many Iranian players now play in major European leagues, and many Iranian clubs have hired European players or coaches.

Like all other sports, adequate football facilities are limited in Iran. Iran's largest football stadium is the Azadi Stadium with a seating capacity of 100,000. Many of the top matches of Iran's Premier League are held here.

In July 2005, Iran's football team qualified for the Football World Cup 2006.


Strength sports have always held favor among Iranians and with the recent success of world record-holding super-heavyweight lifter Hossein Reza Zadeh, the sport has been returned to a rather high status. In addition, bodybuilding is favored among young iranians. One of the famous bodybuilders in Iran was called Hamid Manafi or Arnold of fallah and was born in 1971 in Tehran. He studied psychology at Tehran University. In 1991 he refused taking Iranian national team gold medal because one of the referees was racist to the other athlete. He was the champion light weight since 1988. He quit bodybuilding but started as a coach in Iran(also see http://www.iran national im kat


Iran is home to numerous mountainous regions, many of which are suitable for skiing, and are gaining increasing popularity among foreign visitors. [ [ Culture ] ]

Skiing began in Iran in 1938 through the efforts of two German railway engineers. Today, 13 ski resorts operate in Iran, [ [] ] the most famous being Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak. All are within one to three hours travelling time of Tehran. Potentially suitable terrain can also be found in Lorestan, Mazandaran, and other provinces.

The Tochal resort is the world's fifth-highest ski resort at over 3,730 m at its highest "7th station". The resort was completed in 1976 shortly before the overthrow of the Shah. It is only a mere 15 minutes away from Tehran's northern districts, and operates 7 months a year. Here, one must first ride the 8 km (5 mile) long gondola lift which covers a huge vertical. The 7th station has three slopes. The resort's longest slope is the south side U shaped slope which goes from the 7th station to 5th station. The other two slopes are located on the north side of the 7th station. Here, there are two parallel chair ski lifts that go up to 3900 m near Tochal's peak (at 4,000 m), rising higher than the gondola 7th station station. This altitude is said to be higher than any of the European resorts.

From the Tochal peak, one has a spectacular view of the Alborz range, including the 5,671 metre (18,606 ft) high Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano.

At the bottom of the lifts in a valley behind the Tochal peak is Tochal hotel, located at 3500 m altitude. From there a T lift takes skiers up the 3,800 metres of "Shahneshin" peak, where the third slope of Tochal is.

"See the list of ski areas and resorts in Iran for more details."

Hiking, and climbing sports

Due to the wealth of mountains, climbing sports are widely popular in Iran. Both the Zagros and Alborz ranges provide plenty of opportunities for the novice and advanced alike.

Hiking and Trekking enthusiasts find opportunities in locations like Alamut and Tangeh Savashi to enjoy the rustic surroundings as well as a relatively challenging climb.

Martial Arts

Martial arts have exploded in popularity in Iran in the past 20 years. Kyokushin, Shotokan, Wushu, and Taekwondo are the most popular. One can now find dojos from almost every martial arts style in Iran, with relatively large numbers of followers. The Kung Fu style Tao, originated in Iran.


In basketball, Iran has a national team, and a professional league, with competitive players in Asia. The clubs have begun hiring foreign players and coaches into their roster. The national team participated in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, finishing 1-3. They will finally return to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, thanks to their gold medal in the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship, their first ever continental crown.


In volleyball, Iran has a national team, and a professional league. The Iran national volleyball team is among the strongest teams in Asia, and the Iranian Youth and Junior (Under-19 and Under-21) national teams are among the top 3 strongest teams in the world, winning medals in Boys' U19 Volleyball World Championship and Men's U21 Volleyball World Championship in recent years. In the 2007 Men's U21 Volleyball World Championship, the Iranians were successful at earning a Bronze medal. Also, in late August 2007, the Iran national under-19 volleyball team surprised many by winning the gold medal in the Volleyball World Championship in Mexico after beating France and China in the semi-finals and finals respectively and marking the first such international gold medal for an Iranian team sport.


In futsal, Iran has a strong national team, which has won the Asian Futsal Championship for eight times out of the nine times held. Iran also has a nationwide "Super Futsal League".


Another popular sport in Iran is rallying. Female drivers have been allowed to participate in national rally tournaments, including Iran's successful female driver Laleh Seddigh.

Bodybuilding also holds favor among Iranians, with IFBB pro King Kamali being of Iranian origin.

Attendance at sporting events

Since the 1979 revolution, though never explicitly declared in the law, women were barred from attending football matches. In April 2006, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speculated about allowing women back into the stadiums. [ [ BBC: Sporting chance for Iranian women] , 24 April 2006] It is uncertain if this measure would gain approval, since many hard-line clerics have voiced their opposition. [Frances Harrison, [ BBC: Iran clergy angry over women fans] , 26 April 2006] However, women are generally free to attend indoor sports events.



* [ Zurkhane, International Zurkhane Sports Federation]

ee also

* Buzkashi
* National Iranian Olympic Academy
* Iran national basketball team

External links

* [ Islamic Republic of Iran Physical Education Organization]

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