Soccer in Iran dates back to about a century ago, that is when a group of britishers engaged in oil exploration in southern Iran.After digging the first oil weel and its exploitation in Masjed suleyman in 1908, soccer was taken more seriously in this city.
Earlier , in the border city of bushehr , in the persian gulf , british citizens played this attractive and lively game at their leisure time with the local people only for entertainment. Of course , the game can be traced in other cities of Iran such as bandar anzali (at the caspian sea) and bandar abbas (in the persian gulf) in the same juncture of time.
Before the outbreak of the world war I (1914) , soccer was played at german school and after the end of the war at american college in tehran. Competitions were held at that time between members of the european embassies in tehran. Later this athletic discipline spread to other cities of Iran such as abadan ( in southwest) and Mashad (in northeast) and attracted more enthusiastic youth.
At the end of the qajar dynasty (1919) , a team was formed thanks to the efforts made by khan sardar brothers who had studied in belgium comprising famous players of the time such as meftah brothers , akbar toofan , pan assadollah , reza vali-kalantari , herand galostiyan and galic haratonian.
The sports chief , abulfazl sadri , encouraged the free divisions and teams in tehran to hold a series of contests and awarded the winners with some prizes. A team called “Tehran” with players split from “Sports” team and comprising sardar khan brothers , akbar toofan , heidari , karim zand and meftah won the championship of this round of the contests.
After a while , hussein sediqani who was in turkey for higher education studies , joined the turkish youth team “Fanerbace” and then “Rapid Vienna” in austria. He laid the foundation of a team in the holy city of mashad after his return to Iran.
Sediqiani was among the first people who got acquainted with modern soccer in europe. His presence in Iran’s soccer team at that time resulted in the transfer of his knowledge and experiences about the world soccer to the enthusiastic youth who had a thirst for learning soccer.
A selected team under the name of tehran made the first unofficial trip to badkubeh , in the soviet union where it suffered three defeats :
4-1 , 3-0 and 2-0.
Later in september 1941 , the iranian national soccer team held its first match against national team of afghanistan in kabul. The result was a goalless draw. In this way, the iranian national soccer team started its activities as of early 1940s.
In the regional and asian contests in the years 1941-1963 , Iran’s soccer team only became runner-up at the first round of the new delhi asian games in 1951.
In 1960 , the first round of nationwide club contests started and between 1962 and 1970 , Iran’s soccer gradually began to show its strength at international scenes.
Qualifying for the tokyo olympics (1964) , winning the asian championship (1968) , and winning the asian club championship (by tehran’s esteqlal , former taaj) in 1970 all indicate the growing capability of Iran’s soccer.
The Second round of nationwide league championship resumed in 1968 after 11 years and continued until 1978.
After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and changes in the structure and executive procedures of soccer , the nationwide contests were suspended for some time. Acouple of years later they were resumed under the name of Qods league (with selected teams from provinces competing with each other). The contests have continued since 1989 under the title of “Azadegan League” to honor former iranian prisoners of war with iraq (1980-1988).