Sep 17, 2019, 6:31 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83479722
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Persian female leopards: From futsal players to CAFA U15 girls champions

Tehran, Sept 17, IRNA - Less than a month before the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) organize U15 Girls Championships, Iran had no team to announce. But, it all took one month and two weeks of training and two friendlies to get the Iranian futsal girls to lift CAFA’s best football trophy in Uzbekistan. 

“It all took one month. First we launched a national Olympiad to discover new young talented girls. Then, 26 girls were chosen out of 40 players. After that, we rushed to the training sessions on September 2-8,” says Shadi Mihani, the main woman behind Iran’s winning CAFA Youth Championships, in an interview with IRNA. 

According to the Iran’s national U15 girls football team coach, the side played two friendly matches against two Iranian teams. Then, 18 girl footballers were shortlisted to be sent to Uzbekistan, the host nation for the CAFA Youth Championships. 

Mihani complains that they weren’t informed earlier that the matches will be held on artificial lawns and not natural ones. 

Shadi Mihani, Iranian U15 girls football team coach. IRNA 

The Iranian coach remembers the first very tough days. “We had to train in less than a fortnight. Many of the girls had come from underprivileged areas. Some even didn’t have proper football shoes,” she said. 

As Iran didn’t have any nominees for the U15 group, so the assembled team was made up of futsal players who didn’t know what offside is, according to Mihani. “I had to teach them football from scratch to be able to form an 11-member team with defense and attack positions,” she recalled. 

Time to shine 
Iran’s first face-off was against Tajikistan, a match that was led to the Iranian girls’ victory. 

“Thank God we won them 4-0. It was the first time that they played football in an international tournament outside their country,” added Shadi Mihani in an interview with IRNA. 

The Persian girls, now encouraged by their first ever win, had to play their Kazakh rivals. “The first half ended in a 0-0 draw. But, we scored the first and only goal in minute seven of the second half. My girls didn’t allow the Kazakhs to win,” Mihani noted. 

The round-robin tournament ended with 1-0 victory for Iran, its second win in the championships. 

But, the finals was against host Uzbekistan who changed the pitch to play on natural lawn. 

Iran defeated Uzbekistan 3-2 in their third match and topped the event with three wins.

“The Iranian girls resisted the heavy pressure at Uzbekistan’s home turf. We beat them 1-0 in the first half. I knew they would pressure us more. The second half they played harder and made us tired. Finally we won the match 3-2,” Shadi added, saying that Ghazal Morshedi, Diana Norouzi and Fatemeh Yousefi scored for Iran.

Three wins made the young Iranian female footballers to lift 2019 CAFA U15 Women’s Championship trophy. 

Most Valuable Player
Iran captain Mohaddeseh Zolfi was named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. 

She has been key to Iran's success in Tashkent, scoring twice in her side’s opening 4-0 win over Tajikistan on Friday, before scoring the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Kyrgyz Republic.

Mohaddeseh Zolfi, left, trying to shoot the ball. IRNA

“I thank God for this honor. When Iranian officials saw us off at the airport, I could see in their eyes that no one was expecting us to win one game, let alone become champions,” Mihani told IRNA. 

“But, the Iranian girls wanted to get the first trophy. They proved how their target is important for them and can get it if they want it. They fought to their last breath,” she stressed.  

The competition was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on September 13 -16. 

The CAFA Youth Championship is an international football competition in Central Asia for the member nations of the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA).

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