Behzad Zadaliasghari’s outstanding goal for Iran in their win over Morocco in the football 5-a-side group stage at Rio 2016 had people talking for many days. The player received the ball in his own half, dribbled past the entire African team and shot past the goalkeeper to score one of the best goals ever seen.
The 28-year-old went on to lead Iran to their first-ever Paralympic podium in the sport, claiming silver after eliminating strong favourites Argentina along the way and only losing out to hosts and multiple-Paralympic and world champions Brazil 1-0 in the final.
With the 2016 Paralympics part of the team’s bright past, Zadaliasghari is now hoping Iran can continue improving in the lead-up to the next events and, further ahead, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I am excited about the competitions in 2017 and sure that it will be the best year of my football career,” he said.
“I am developing my skills because my training sessions are longer and harder than before. The exercises I have added to my routine make me believe that my progress is even faster than last year.”
A series of training camps in March will kick off the football 5-a-side season in Iran. The national football league will start after that, with the Iranian players seeking to excel to be called up to the national team.
Zadaliasghari said that talent identification is possible thanks to this competitive national league.
“The level of the league is increasing because new and young talented players are emerging,” he said.
“I believe some new players will be called up to the national team for the upcoming competitions. That is good because it keeps the team fresh and ready if the usual players suffer injuries.”
From 17-23 September 2017, Iran will participate in the ASEAN Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which will serve as preparation for next year’s IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain.
Further ahead, Zadaliasghari knows that the big goal is to dethrone the seemingly invincible Brazilian team at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, in 2020.
“We need to focus on our tactics. Once we have evaluated the other teams, our head coach might change the playing system, because many teams already know how we play,” he said.