There’s been a lot of hockey development taking place in Iran and the hard work is beginning to bear fruit. While indoor hockey still attracts the greater number of participants and it is the sport in which Iran enjoys greatest international success, the outdoor game is also growing, with new clubs and leagues being formed across the country.
On the international stage, Iran has been enjoying great success. They finished a highly creditable fourth in the 2015 Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup, finally losing to indoor specialists Germany in the bronze medal match. That Iran, ranked seventh in the world in the indoor rankings, were up against a team that included Tobias Hauke, Oliver Korn and Moritz Fuerste – who have numerous Olympic and World Cup gold medals to their names – shows a remarkable level of self-belief, determination and talent.
Iran lost that match but over the course of the event, they beat Australia (Indoor World Ranking 11), Russia (IWR: 4) and Austria (IWR: 2) and drew with the Czech Republic (IWR: 6).
The national team also tasted success at the Indoor Asia Cups, both in 2015 in Kazakhstan and then in Qatar in April 2017, both times beating Kazakhstan in the final.
Their 2017 victory was followed by a win at an Indoor tournament in Sveti Ivan Zelina, Croatia, where the national team – which has a world ranking of 53 – recorded a first place finish while an Arak regional team came second at another Indoor event - the 22nd International Cup in Moscow.
Domestically, there are strong women’s and men’s indoor leagues with 14 teams playing in the Women’s Super League and 12 teams contesting the Men’s Super League. The men’s league is in its ninth year, while the women’s league has been running for seven editions.
The outdoor game is also growing, with 12 adult men’s teams taking part in the first Hockey Championships and 14 youth teams also contesting a first outdoor Junior Hockey Championship. In addition, a Boy’s School’s Cultural Athletic Festival took place earlier in the year and attracted 18 teams.
There are established outdoor hockey competitions, which are growing in both stature and quality. Both the men’s Khalij Fars Cup and the women’s Kosar Cup was contested by the top eight men’s and women’s teams in the country. These two events are in their 10th and eighth years respectively.
The growth in hockey, both indoor and outdoor, in Iran is underpinned by an investment into coaching and training. The Iranian Hockey Federation recently organised a Level Two International Coaching Course in the Mazandaran province and a specialist hockey centre will soon be opening in Kerman, the capital of the Kerman province. The outdoor game will get a further boost as an artificial turf is opening soon in Hamadan.
The indoor game has provided a foundation from which the outdoor game can grow. With investment into facilities and coaching and a dynamic national association pushing for progress, Iran is an emerging nation whose indoor success will soon translate to the outdoor game.