Iran are set to grace the world stage once again when the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 gets underway this September. Having failed to make it to the quarter-final stage at their last four appearances at the tournament, the Iranians are looking to a new clutch of stars to put the past behind them.
Top of the list is striker Moslem Mesigar, a cornerstone of the team’s plans, who will be playing in his fourth FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Speaking to FIFA.com,* *the sharp-shooting Mesigar opened up about his dreams for Tahiti and looked back at some of the highlights of his beach soccer career.
Image changeWith three competition appearances behind him, Mesigar believes the time has come to change the reputation his national side have earned in their previous four campaigns: “We’ve competed at the World Cup on four previous occasions and never made it to the quarter-finals. Our stumbling block has always been the first round. We have a lot to learn in this game but I reckon the time has arrived for us to make the experience we’ve accumulated count.”
“We are looking forward to taking part in Tahiti 2013,” he went on, “and we’re eager to set new benchmarks. Qualifying is our first target and if we manage that then there’s nothing to stop us thinking of going even further. Reaching the quarter-finals is a big deal and that is what we hope to do.”
Iran have played a total of 12 matches in their previous FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup campaigns, losing 11 of them. It was at Rio de Janeiro 2007, their second tournament appearance, that they managed their only win to date, beating Spain 5-4, before their winning ways deserted them once again.
Their most recent outing at Ravenna 2011 saw the Iranians put in their finest performance to date. Their tally of three first round defeats does not to justice to the quality of their play in a group that comprised Italy, Switzerland and Senegal. There were clear signs that the Iranian beach soccer team was finally making progress.
Mesigar certainly sees a pattern: “Looking at how far we’ve come, from our first tournament to our most recent campaign, we’ve improved our performances. We have played great games, taking on strong teams and making it hard for them. If we step up our preparations a little, I believe we can close the gap, though nothing’s certain in football.”
The hard yardsTo get themselves up to the standard required for a tournament of this magnitude, Iran have been working flat out since they booked their tickets for Tahiti. Central to their plans is an intensive training program, as Mesigar explains: “When the Asian qualifiers finished at the beginning of the year, we drew up plans to develop our technical skills. Our Brazilian coach Marco Octavio has brought some new ideas with him, plus the latest tactics, and we will continue working hard to gain the attributes we need.”
Things have not been so easy in the past. “One of the reasons for our failure to win at past tournaments is changes to the coaching staff,” Mesigar said, “as well as a lack of adequate preparation for such a major event. We did not play friendly internationals against the big teams. Things have improved a lot. We are set to play suitably competitive warm-up games, which will definitely raise our standards. Our aim is to progress and in this game you need everything to be in place to ensure you give a good account of yourself.”
Hopes and dreamsMoslem Mesigar began his footballing career at Iranian club Shahin Bushehr before a chance encounter led him to take up beach soccer, playing for local side Daryanavardan. A move to Vision Tehran brought the youngster his first taste of success, with two league titles, three runners-up medals and the personal accolade of the season’s top goalscorer on two occasions.
His form soon brought him to the attention of the national team and he played in his first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2007, retaining his place for Marseille 2008 and Ravenna 2011. As Tahiti looms on the horizon, Mesigar still has fire in his belly: “Looking back on my journey with the national side gives me the hunger to put my technical and physical skills to the test at a World Cup. I want to prove my ability alongside my teammates and show the world how much we want to make it to the later stages. We want to show them that Iranian football can evolve.”
“We got off to a great start this year,” the 28-year-old continued. “We put on some fine performances at the Asian Beach Soccer Cup in Qatar and beat Japan to take the title. It was a wonderful achievement. In that final I managed to bring the scores level in the dying second then I was the last one to hit the net during the penalty shoot-out. I also made it to the list of top goalscorers with 11 strikes. That was just terrific. I felt amazing and my morale is sky-high going into the biggest tournament of all.”
The Iranians begin their Tahiti 2013 campaign in Group C alongside Brazil, Ukraine and Senegal. Mesigar has no illusions about the size of the task ahead: “It’s a strong group and a tough one for sure. Brazil are the complete team and have been crowned world champions several times. But we will try to compete hard in all three games and make it through to the quarter-finals. We will fight with all we’ve got.”
Mesigar’s record with the national team is a good one. After taking third place at three previous editions of the Asian Beach Soccer Cup, he can now place this year’s champion’s medal alongside one from a WAFF Beach Soccer Championship and an Asian Games gold on his mantelpiece. In addition, he has twice finished top goalscorer in Asian beach soccer.
But the trophies and acclaim have not dimmed his ambition: “There is still so much to achieve. My great dream is to turn pro for one of the top European clubs. I will do everything in my power to prove that I deserve that chance and that an Iranian player like me has what it takes to play abroad.”