Andranik Teymourian

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Agence France Presse -- English June 4, 2006 Sunday 2:10 PM GMT


President Ahmadinejad tells World Cup team: Bring glory to Iran

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany, June 4 2006


Iran arrived at their World Cup base here on Sunday under instructions from president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to bring glory to their country.

Iranian football supporters braved the rain to welcome their national side amid expectations of protests about Tehran's politics.

German authorities have promised strong police protection for the Iranian side, and a local police spokesman said there were "plain clothes policemen" at the airport.

The team were surrounded by children asking for autographs as they made their way through the terminal before leaving by bus for a luxury hotel in Schnetzenhausen, a small town northwest of Friedrichsafen on the shores of Lake Constance.

There were more fans waiting at the hotel, but they were kept at a distance by security men.

Iran had left Tehran optimistic they could create a surprise at the world Cup where they are drawn in Group D against Angola, Mexico and Portugal.

"We're ready for the World Cup. We'll do everything to reach the second round. It's our big objective," insisted captain Ali Daie.

It has been expected that the team's arrival could be marked by protests against the hardline regime of President Ahmadinejad, but the police said they did not know about any planned demonstrations.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany is planning however to hold a protest at the World Cup football match between Iran and Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11.

Daie said the controversy surrounding the Iranian president who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and has repeatedly denied the Holocaust had only served to spur on the squad.

"Knowing the players I can tell you that this negative publicity against our country is going to motivate them to show by their behaviour and game that it's totally unjustified."

About a possible visit from President Ahmadinejad the Iranian football president Mohammad Dadkan remarked: "I invited the president to come to Germany on Thursday. He said he would if his work schedule permitted."

As for security he added: "The German government has taken all the measures to ensure the best conditions for our team and all the others."

The Iranian team contains one surprise - Andranik Teymourian, the only Christian in the side.

"In terms of being a religious minority I've got no problem and relations are really good at the heart of the team," insisted the midfielder, who is the first Armenian to be selected since Andranik Eskandarian in 1978.

"I'm really happy to be able to take part in the World Cup at the age of 23," he said.

On his arrival in Germany Teymourian and his fellow teammates were cheered by a small but vociferous crowd, most Iranians who live in Germany and travelled some 400 kilometres (about 250 miles) from Frankfurt, but there were also members of the local club VfB Friedrichshafen.

"They are going to play on our pitch," one of the local players said proudly.

The Iranians slowly made their way past television crews and autograph hunters, who were especially keen on Karimi, the Iranian who plays for German club Bayern Munich.

Among them were three veiled young Iranian girls who made several players sign a white football jersey from the national side.

Eleven-year-old David Chavoshi, who came with his Iranian father to see the team, said he thought they could make it through to the knockout stages.

"But after that, if they come up against Argentina or the Netherlands, it's over," he told AFP.


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