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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Olerum happy to be in Iran
By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Nigerian striker Daniel Okechukwu Olerum
Nigerian striker Daniel Okechukwu Olerum is happy to play in Iran

Nigerian footballers are well known for plying their trade all over the world but it may come as a surprise that there are a few playing in Iran.

The first was Daniel Okechukwu Olerum, who has been playing for Foolad Khuzestan FC after a stint in the lower-divisions in Germany.

Olerum has been with the club based in the West of Iran close to the border with Iraq since August 2003.

Despite being a Christian in an overwhelmingly Islamic country the 22-year-old striker says he has found relative peace and comfort starring in the Iranian Premier League.

"Before I got here, I was very nervous going by world reports about their differences with close neighbours, Iraq," Olerum, who has also played for Enugu Rangers and Shooting Stars in Nigeria, told BBC Sport.

"But all that faded as I settled down to a wonderful life.

"I'm very proud to be a part of this historical country.

"Although Iran was no superpower in Asian football, but my ambition of playing outside Nigeria spurred me on.

The atmosphere that greeted Iran's qualification for the World Cup was unbelievable
Daniel Okechukwu Olerum

"All I needed was just a chance to show what I could do, and Iran provided me with that opportunity.

"Football in Iran is much more physical than in Nigeria. There is a lot of concentration on the physical aspect of the game.

"In Nigeria it's more about skill but in Iran you need to be strong and you must have speed to make headway.

"The organisation, security, marketing and sponsorship here are really top class.

"The money here is good; I earn the same as if I was playing in Belgium, Sweden or Denmark.

"Most clubs here have expatriate coaches and players, and the pitches are out of this world."

Olerum insists that the religious and cultural differences are not a problem for him.

"Accepting an offer here in Iran meant I had to respect whatever law was in place here.

"Despite being a strong Christian, I've come to realise that Islam is a respectable religion that teaches morals in a firm way."

With some of his club mates heading to the World Cup finals in Germany with Iran, Olerum is dreaming of a Nigerian appearance in 2010.

"The atmosphere that greeted Iran's qualification for the World Cup was unbelievable; streets were shut down for hours and the celebrations went on for days.

"My team-mates are extremely delighted; it gives me hope that I can achieve my dreams someday.

"Already my manager is trying to work on a possible move to France or Germany, which would be an ideal way of forcing my way into the Super Eagles reckoning as the 2010 finals approach."


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