From sleeping rough to the saving Ronaldo’s penalty in Worldcup18!— Victoria Russi (@victoria_russi) June 25, 2018
This is Alireza Beiranvand. As a child, he ran away from his nomadic family in Iran, slept on the streets, worked in a dress factory and car wash!#alirezabeiranvand #IRNPOR #Ronaldo #penalty #WorldCup18 #POR pic.twitter.com/2ElgaB3ZIK
From humble beginnings to the greatest stage in the world, Iran’s goalkeeper for FIFA world cup 2018 stole the show after he denied, arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, from the penalty spot.
Iran may have crashed out of the world cup, but they announced themselves in grand fashion; none more so than Alireza Beiranvand.
Even though they lost the match to Ronaldo’s Portugal, Beiranvand's persistence and stellar performance stole the hearts of millions around the globe.
And if his FIFA journey seems inspiring, his road to becoming Iran’s number one goalkeeper can prove to be all the motivation one needs to follow their dreams.
Born into a nomadic family, Beiranvand was always on the move. As the eldest son, his first job came early in his childhood: shepherding. But his heart wasn’t in it.
Whenever he got free time, he would play soccer and "Dal Paran," a local game, with his friends. For the goalkeeper, Dal Paran — throwing stones over long distances — would prove to be the difference in playing for the national team and fading away.
However, goalkeeping was not how Beiranvand started out. He initially wanted to play as a striker but while training with a local team at the age of 12, he made a brilliant save replacing an injured goalkeeper. The save was enough to land him a permanent position of the goalie.
But Beiranvand’s brilliance between the goal posts was not enough to convince his family to take up soccer as his career. Like many Iranian fathers, Morteza Beiranvand wanted his son to work a day job.
“My father didn’t like football at all and he asked me to work,” Beiranvand told the Guardian. “He even tore my clothes and gloves and I played with bare hands several times.”
He knew if he wanted to make his dreams a reality, he would have to do something drastic. So he ran away to Tehran, in a bid to find bigger clubs and better opportunities at his nation’s capital.
On his bus to Tehran, he met Hossein Feiz, a manager to a local football team, who promised Beiranvand he would let him train with the club for 200,000 Toman ($50) but the struggling goalie did not have money.
He would sleep with other poor migrants and train on trial everyday with a local club.
“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 said. “They had thought I was a beggar! Well, I had a delicious breakfast for the first time in a long while.”
Beiranvand’s determination prompted Feiz to give him a chance at his club sans the fee. The young goalkeeper started working at a dressmaking factory owned by another teammate’s father so he could sleep there at night.
Opportunity knocked at his door on his next job. When working at a carwash, Iran legend and former Bayern Munich striker Ali Daei turned up to get his car cleaned. Beiranvand’s friends pushed him to ask a favor of the superstar, but he preferred finding his own way.
“I knew if I had talked to Mr Daei he would have surely helped me but I was ashamed to speak with him and tell him about my situation,” he said.
Afterwards, he moved to Naft and started playing for a local club, Naft-e-Tehran.
His next job at a pizza parlor did not pan out how he wanted, so he finally accepted work as a street cleaner. It became difficult for Beiranvand to stay fit. Soon after, he was sacked by Naft, for training with another team and getting injured. He tried for another club, Homa, but they were reluctant signing him on.
Just as Beiranvand thought his dream was dying, he got an unexpected call from Naft’s under-23 manager to return to the club.
“Maybe it was fate that the Homa manager didn’t want to sign me,” Beiranvand said. “If I had remained in that team, maybe I would never have reached the level that I’m at today.”
His sheer passion for the game saw him through and he was selected for Iran’s under-23 national team. But it was Dal Paran that would get him international media’s attention. Accustomed to power throwing, with years of playing the local game, Beiranvand’s 70-metre assist against Tractor Sazi, caught everyone’s eye.
Now Iran’s undisputed number one goalkeeper set the biggest stage in world on fire but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
“I suffered many difficulties to make my dreams come true but I have no intention of forgetting them because they made me the person I am now,” he said.
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS / Ricardo Moraes