Iran: Javad Nekounam


Written by Avery Rape in 2013

Central Midfielder, #6, 33 Years Old


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Javad Nekounam is an Iranian central midfielder known for his passing ability, defensive smarts and long-range shooting. Born in Rey, Iran on October 7, 1980. He started off his professional career on Pas Tehran F.C. for seven years where he scorer 45 goals in 179 appearances. He then briefly spent time at Al-Wahda SCC in the United Arab Emirates League for 1 million dollars for 5 months in 2005. In 2006 he moved to another Iranian club Al Sharjah SC, but it was then that some European clubs began to take notice of him after the 2006 World Cup. After his performance at the 2006 World Cup many clubs in Europe were looking to sign Nekounam, including Hertha BSC of the Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Lyonnais, but he eventually joined La Liga side CA Osasuna.[1] His first major professional European contract was signed with CA Osasuna for two years where he wore number 24, making him the first Iranian football player to be signed by a Spanish club. The 2006 World Cup was the catalyst in his professional career along with his first season with Osasuna. Both of these grew his international reputation and a need for him in European football as other clubs began to make him offers. Unfortunately, he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament the same year and he had to take off eight months to recover. Luckily, Osasuna still wanted him when he became healthy, and he signed a three-year contract extension. He made his reappearance for the club against Valencia on April 27, 2007 in a 0-3 loss. Nekounam continued his career with Osasuna through 2011 where he scored 24 goals in 149 appearances. In July 2012, at 32 years old he returned to Iran and signed a one-year contract with Esteghlal for a record $1.5 million dollars. With this club he has scored 8 goals in 40 games and has helped them secure their 28th league title.


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For 2013, Nekounam has been named as one of the candidates for Asian Football Player of the Year and is considered by most as the front-runner for the award.[2] Nekounam has been the leading goal scorer for the Iranians in its 2014 World Cup qualifying games. He has scored six goals in eight games for Team Melli this year and has scored 37 goals in his 135 caps for the national team.


The Iranian national team is currently ranked 1st in Asian and 45th in the world according to the 2013 FIFA World Rankings. Their world cup history has been very up and down the last few tournaments. In 2000 they lost to Korea in the quarter-final, and they failed to qualify in 2002. It was in 2006 that Iran became the first country to qualify for the World Cup alongside of Japan, and their qualification ignited national hysteria. It resulted in mass celebrations, protests and unrest between the people and the government. The Iran vs. Japan qualifying game in Tehran played on March 24,2005 was the highest attended qualifying match among all of the confederations. There was a lot of attention and high expectations on the team that year, however they lost their first two group matches and failed to qualify for the next round. In 2010, the qualifying games coincided with the presidential election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hussein Moussavi.[3] Specifically, the last game against South Korea was used as a political outlet for both the players in the fans as they protested the believed to be rigged election that Ahmadinejad ended up winning. The players were seen wearing green wristbands, which we known symbols used to support Moussavi.[4] During such a stressful time for the players and the Iranian people, football was used to provide regular citizens with a voice. The team ended up tying 1-1 and failed to qualify again that year, so this year’s tournament birth should provide the nation with some positivity. A country that has gone through so much over the decades could really use a successful world cup campaign. Making the single elimination rounds would really bring excitement and hope to the country, and this can be done through a senior player and captain such as Nekounam. He is a player that has performed well at both the international and club levels, however it would really solidify a spot for him in Iranian history if he were able to carry the nation to the quarterfinals.



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How to cite this article: “Iran: Javad Nekounam,” Written by Avery Rape (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:




[4] ibid


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