AFC Asian Cup Iran v Iraq quarter-final draws football fanatics to Canberra

January 22, 2015 – 11:45PM

Megan Gorrey

Reporter at The Canberra Times

Self-confessed football fanatic Ali Parvizi (centre), of Bonython, will cheer on Iran at Friday's AFC Asian Cup quarter-final at Canberra Stadium. He will be joined by his children Navid, 8, (left), and Anita, 7, (right), as well as (back, from left) family members Mehri Roses-Parvizi, Maryam Parvizi and Danielle Parvizi.

Self-confessed football fanatic Ali Parvizi (centre), of Bonython, will cheer on Iran at Friday’s AFC Asian Cup quarter-final at Canberra Stadium. He will be joined by his children Navid, 8, (left), and Anita, 7, (right), as well as (back, from left) family members Mehri Roses-Parvizi, Maryam Parvizi and Danielle Parvizi. Photo: Jamila Toderas

When Ali Parvizi’s family fled Iran for Australia in the 1980s, it was to escape a nation at war with neighbouring Iraq.

The significance of the opportunity to cheer on his home country when the rival Middle Eastern teams battle it out at Canberra Stadium on Friday has not escaped Mr Parvizi.

He’s among thousands of local fans gearing up for the last AFC Asian Cup match to be played in Canberra – Iran and Iraq’s quarter-final contest.

Strong turnouts at the tournament, which surpassed early predictions and were helped by a steady stream of interstate visitors, have excited football fans and bolstered Canberra’s tourism sector in recent weeks.

Mr Parvizi, an assistant director at the Australian Institute of Sport, snapped up 58 tickets for his close friends and family to attend Friday’s contest.

“We’re so excited the team’s coming to Canberra and we know that thousands of people are coming down from Sydney for the game.”

Mr Parvizi said Friday’s match would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience but his dream was to watch Iran face off against Australia in the grand final.

“If Iran does play Australia in the grand final, your heart’s in one place but Australia’s our home.

“At the end of the day we’re out there to watch a beautiful game and the best team will win.”

Local organising committee ambassador Mohammed Alali, who moved to Australia from Iraq 20 years ago, said Friday’s contest was about more than football for Iraqi fans – it was about hope.

“Although we are here, our hearts are back home and the country’s still going through difficult times.

“It gives hope the country will go back to being normal. It reminds us of something we used to have before, and it’s a good opportunity for Iraq competing with other nations.

“So I think this game is most important.”

Mr Alali said many different cultural groups and communities from the ACT and further afield had enjoyed the Canberra games.

“It’s good for small businesses and hotels with all the people coming from other states.”

Mr Parvizi said it was encouraging to see such high-profile sporting teams being lured to the city.

“It’s been great for football and great for Canberra.”

More than 34,000 people attended the first four Asian Cup games in Canberra, with another 18,000 fronting up for Sunday night’s match between China and North Korea. Up to 70,000 people are expected to go through the gates for the seven games.

Visit Canberra director Ian Hill said more than 60,000 tickets were sold for the first six matches and he expected Friday’s game would be a sell-out.

“It’s great to have these nations playing in the capital.”

“Some of the teams have based themselves here at the Australian Institute of Sport for training, like Oman and Kuwait, and it’s been great having them here.”

Mr Hill said Canberra’s hospitality industry was boosted by the influx of players and team staff, Asian Football Confederation employees and busloads of fans.

“We’ve been working very closely with the accommodation sector for the past few months ahead of the Asian Cup and the Cricket World Cup, and we’ve just had the Prime Minister’s XI match.

“That’s been a real shot in the arm for those hotels.”

Mr Hill said televised matches showcased bumper Asian Cup crowds, an immaculate Canberra Stadium and beautiful images of the city, and helped put the capital on the map.

He believed the local success of the competition would bode well for future conversations with national and international sporting bodies.

“It’s a very competitive space, so you’ve got to show your credentials and I think Canberra’s done that in spades in the past couple of weeks.”

 

Source : The Canberra Times

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