While fans of Iranian club Pas were dwelling on the disappointment of exiting the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on away goals in September, those observing the overall health of the country’s football will have found a real positive in the impressive efforts of striker Arash Borhani.
It was Borhani’s goal on his 22nd birthday that earned his side a 1-1 draw away to Al Ain in the first leg on 14 September and when he scored twice in the return match in Tehran seven days later, Pas stood on the threshold of the last four. Although the visitors from the United Arab Emirates then fought back to earn an unlikely 3-3 draw, and narrow aggregate success, the undoubted star of the night was Borhani who shone throughout with his speed and trickery.
Despite this setback with his club side, the Iranian international’s ambitions are undiminished. Speaking to FIFAworldcup.com recently, he admitted he was now looking forward to making an impact on the biggest stage of all, at the FIFA World Cupâ„¢ finals next year. “I hope to play with the Iran national team in Germany next summer and my goal is to reach semi-finals,” he said boldly.
Borhani grew up in the desert city of Kerman and spent his childhood with a ball at his feet. In this football-mad country, where schoolbags serve as goal posts on street corners, in courtyards and even up on rooftops, Borhani’s talents stood out from an early age. It was no surprise that he began attracting the interest of professional clubs and eventually, in 2003, he moved to the capital Tehran to join Pas, one of the three leading clubs in Iranian football.
At Pas his progress accelerated, as he recalled: “Everything at Pas was so good and with the proper environment, experienced coaching team and great team-mates I progressed quickly.” Within six months of his league debut Borhani had earned his first international call-up and his 12 goals in the 2003/04 season not only helped Pas win the league title but also put him second behind the veteran Ali Daei in the scorers’ chart and helped win him the Young Player of the Year award.
He cemented his credentials with nine goals in the 2004/05 campaign but now faces the challenge of winning a place in the Iran national team. Facing competition from the talismanic Daei and Hannover forward Vahid Hashemian, Borhani spent much of Iran’s 12-match qualifying campaign for Germany 2006 warming the bench and started just one match, the 7-0 victory over Laos in November 2004, where he netted Iran’s sixth goal.
He had given a glimpse of his qualities the previous month in the 3-2 win in Qatar when he levelled the score at 2-2 just four minutes after coming on as a substitute, before Hashemian sealed three vital points with a late strike. According to Borhani, his finishing can get better. “I think the area I need to improve most is my finishing and I have spent a lot of time working on this in training,” he said. “I think I will be able to convert more chances as long as I keep on training hard and working towards this goal.”
Thierry Henry fan
Only 1.75m tall, it is Borhani’s speed and skill that mark him out and, with this in mind, it is little surprise that that he cites Arsenal and France marksman Thierry Henry as the player he admires most. “I really enjoy watching him play as he can always catch out the defensive line with his pace and his skills. And he a great thirst for goals.”
There was a touch of Henry about Borhani’s opening goal in the second leg against Al Ain. After his team-mate Hossein Pashaie had a shot blocked by a defender, Borhani pounced on to the ball and broke into the area from the left. He beat a defender and then fired a left-foot shot low past the goalkeeper.
Now he is looking to emulate Henry by enjoying success at the FIFA World Cup finals. Iran have never been beyond the first round, but Borhani sees no reason why they cannot make history in Germany. “Korea Republic showed how well Asian teams could do in 2002 so it is not just a dream for us,” he concluded.