I hold dual British/Iranian citizenship and so have a good familiarity with life in modern-day Iran. Back in 2011, a friend with whom I played rugby claimed he had played against Iran for Indonesia. I was sure he was pulling my leg. . . . Nonetheless, I sent a casual email to the Iranian Sports Ministry enquiring about their international Rugby Union team. I sent the email not really expecting anything to happen. To my astonishment I received a reply asking for my details and rugby background. I eagerly replied, explaining that I would qualify to play for Iran due to my father being Iranian and the fact I held an Iranian passport. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Tehran to trial for the national squad.
I received an extremely hospitable welcome upon my arrival, and immediately got down to business. I earned my place in the team and was chosen to represent Iran in the Asian 5 Nations tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia. In sub-tropical conditions (the match had to be halted for several minutes due to a thunder storm) we beat Pakistan to be crowned champions!
I decided to go back a second time in 2012 due to the fantastic experience I had in 2011. This time I was appointed player/assistant-coach. Again I left for Tehran for the training camps and then on to Bangkok, Thailand. We finished third in the tournament. Although I was thoroughly disappointed by this result it was encouraging to see just how much the team had progressed since the previous year.
Fast forward to 2013 & 2014 I was again asked to play. However I was unable to accept the invitation due to my law degree commitments.
However, I must have made a sufficient impression the last time I played as I have received yet another invitation. The tournament this time round is a completely different animal. Malacca, Malaysia will be the proud host of the inaugural Crescent Cup Rugby Championships (CCRC) from June 1-14 2015 http://crescentcuprugbychampionship.com/. Twelve teams from around the world including Kazakhstan and Senegal will be competing in the tournament. The Youth and Sports Minister from Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, commented “The CCRC will not only boost sport tourism but also help foster goodwill among nations”.
I leave for Iran on 21 May and will return mid June. Blacks have been fully supportive of this opportunity and I intend to Tweet about my adventure along the way. I will also be broadcasting live via Periscope in order to share my experiences and keep my colleagues, friends and family updated back home.
Wish me luck!