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  Monday, 29 July, 2002, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Khakpour building bridges in the USA
Mohammad Khakpour
Mohammad Khakpour talks to World Football
One of Iran's greatest ever players Mohammad Khakpour talks exclusively to World Football's Jo Parsons about his decision to hang up his boots and begin teaching in America...

Mohammad Khakpour was an Iranian international, regarded as their most important player at France 98 where they beat the United States in the first round.

After playing for clubs in Iran, Turkey and Singapore he went to the US and played for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars in the MLS.
Mohammad Khakpour in action for the NY/NJ Metrostars
Mohammad Khakpour in action for the NY/NJ Metrostars

Now he's stayed on there to help coach youngsters - 12-year-old boys and girls from Iranian and American families in Newport Beach in Southern California.

"When I came to America I decided to share my experience with the children, and I guess this is the best way" he said.

"In everything you have to start step by step, and I have to coach children before I work with adults, but I like what I am doing because I love children!

"When I was playing here for the Metrostars my son was born, and my wife and I decided to stay, and we moved to California where there is a large Iranian community.
Khakpour playing for Iran
Mohammad starred for Iran at France 98

"The hardest thing about the move was my language. It was very hard to communicate. Also, I used to be a famous guy in my country - everybody knew me, and my friends and family are all there. I missed them a lot, and I still do.

"I never had any doubts because I knew about soccer in the US and I knew I could play here, but when I arrived I saw that it wasn't just soccer - there was a lot of politics involved.

"They aren't looking to sign you because you're a good player, but because you can bring more people to the stadium.

"Here in the United States they just work on the physical things - they don't work on the skills or tactics. They try to make the children strong, the same as American Football or rugby.

"But I try to teach the children to play with skill and style, because they are young and will become strong eventually, but if they don't learn technique now hten they never will, and that's why I'm here.

Politically the US and Iran don't enjoy good relations, and bringing the communities together can only be beneficial. Mohammad stresses that he never came here with that intention, but he's happy that football can work in this way.
Mohammad Khakpour
"I'm trying to teach the children skill and style"

"I came here as a sportsman, not as a politican. But I believe that sports can make people closer.

"And my philosophy about soccer is that a team is like a family. If somebody in the team has a problem and everyone helps them out they will be very successful. Its important they learn to sacrifice for each other to help win the game.

"I am trying to teach this to the American kids because it is something from my culture in Iran. If they understand that on the soccer field then it goes to the community and goes to the society and so on".

You can hear all of Jo Parson's interview with Mohammad Khakpour on World Football on Saturday 27 July. Use the audio link on the front page.


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