Iran’s Andranik Teymourian Prepared to Face Portugal in World Cup

–Teymourian nominated for Christian soccer star award

(IranMania/Catholic News Service)–After last Sunday’s 3-to-1 loss to Mexico–the Iranian team and its star midfielder Andranik Teymourian are preparing to play Portugal Saturday as the 2006 FIFA World Cup continues.

At a press conference Wednesday–Iran’s coach Branco Ivankovic said that he watched the game against Mexico four times. He said he went over the second half of that game with the entire team.

"We will be prepared for the game with Portugal," he said.

Ivankovic also dismissed any talk of the Portuguese midfielders as being legendary–saying that the Iranian team’s midfielders are just as good as theirs.

"They may have Deco–Figo–and Costinha–but for each one of those players we also have a good player," said Ivankovic.

One of Iran’s midfielders–23 year old Andranik Teymourian–is an Armenian and the only Christian on the team.

"Although we lost to Mexico–the team is still in good spirits–as we don’t think we deserved to lose that game–we unfortunately threw it away. I hope that we can beat Portugal and go from there to qualify," said Teymourian.

Asked how the players were coping with life in Germany–he said: "We each have our interests. The country here is very beautiful and the people have been very nice to us. We have had no problems."

Teymourian also spoke about being only the second Christian to ever play for the Iranian team.

"I am proud to be the second Iranian Christian after–Andranik Eskandarian–to play for Iran," he said. Andranik Eskandarian–also Armenian–played for the famous New York Cosmos team.

As the only Christian on the team–Teymourian is also one of eleven players nominated for a contest to select a Christian soccer star during the World Cup.

Referring to his religion–Teymourian said–"In terms of being a religious minority–I’ve got no problem–and relations are really good at the heart of the team."

Organizers of the contest–started by a group of Catholic and Protestant educators in the Netherlands–said that they wanted "to show that players who’ll become superstars during this tournament are also spiritual people who believe in Christ."

"Your personal religious beliefs aren’t something you draw attention to at that level," said Pieter Kohnen–spokesman for the Dutch bishops’ conference. "But even here in the Netherlands–players often make the sign of the cross when they step onto the pitch or score goals. Any personal feedback–explaining the gesture–why they want to thank God at such a moment–would be helpful."

Other than Teymourian–the list of nominees includes three Brazilians–two South Koreans–two Dutch players–as well as two American players–Brian McBride and Tim Howard–and a Ghanaian–Sammy Kuffour.

Fans can vote for their favorite at www.gristelijk.nl.

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