THE Iran national team has received an unlikely boost from the thousands of their compatriots who are currently in the country to study.
Iranian students, mostly taking up medical courses, have formed a large support group for the two-time champions during every game in the ongoing Fiba-Asia championships at the Mall of Asia Arena.
As much as 500 Iranian fans attended each of the team's games in the first round and around 100 were on hand to see Monday’s match against India, making their presence felt by waving flags, chanting, and proudly wearing their national colors while converging in one section of the arena.
“That is our national team. We are here to support,” said Mehran Maghsodloo, a dentistry student at Centro Escolar University who has been in the Philippines for five years.
“We are very happy to support the team,” said his classmate Poarya Karimi.
Bahramnejad said he and his countrymen are proud of their heritage even when they are in a foreign land. “We really feel great with the Iranian society. We have a national team that has a lot of fans here.”
Iran cager Asghar Kardoust has taken notice of the crowd and is happy for the support.
“I think I’ve come here three times. This is the first time that I’ve been surprised with the crowd. They give so much energy,” said Kardoust, one of the players who acknowledged their flag-waving supporters following their lopsided victory over India on Monday.
The supporters also take pride in the fact that their countryman, NBA veteran Hamed Hadadi, is very popular among local fans.
“We are happy that everybody here in the country knows Hadadi. We are proud of him. We are happy that he is known here in the Philippines,” said Behzad Bahramnejad.
Bahramnejad and Karimi are counting on their team to win the championship, but they've also grown attached to their adopted country that they're hoping that Gilas Pilipinas also does well in the tournament.
“I promise you 100 percent,” said Karimi when asked if Iran can win the Fiba-Asia tournament.
“We want Philippines second,” added Bahramnejad.