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2006 FIFA World Cup

Abbas Jazzi, 16, lives for football in a tough neighbourhood in Iran

UNICEF Image: UNICEF image Iran Abbas Jazzi and football team
© UNICEF Iran/2006/Eeles
Abbas Jazzi, 16, poses for a team photograph with the rest of his Montakhab squad.

For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UNICEF and FIFA are campaigning to ensure a more peaceful world for children. This is a profile of one of Team UNICEF's star players.

By Miranda Eeles

TEHRAN, Iran – At 6 o’clock on a Friday morning most teenagers are sound asleep and will be for a good few hours to come. But 16 year-old Abbas Jazzi has no time for sleeping. It might be the day of rest in the Islamic Republic, but Abbas is more interested in perfecting his technique on the football pitch.

“I play from 8 until 10 every night on the street or in the park with friends from the neighbourhood,” says Abbas as he waits for his teammates outside the gates of their local football pitch, a patch of ground strewn with litter and used syringes. “But on Wednesdays and Fridays I play with a team called Montakhab and we either train or have a match against other local teams. Today we are playing against Ansar Youth.”

UNICEF Image: UNICEF image Iran Abbas Jazzi and football team
© UNICEF Iran/2006/Eeles
Abbas chases down a ball during his team’s match against Ansar Youth.

Along the straight and narrow

Abbas is the youngest player in the Montakhab team. Most of the other members are Afghans who are working in Iran as manual labourers, porters or construction workers and who share his passion for the game. They have a coach, Naser Rezai, but he is more of a mentor than a formal trainer. He is from the area, knows their problems and tries to keep them along the straight and narrow.

“I have lived in this area since I was a teenager and I know there are problems like drugs,” explains Rezai, while the team starts warming up for the game. “Playing football keeps them away from trouble and I try and guide them as best as I can.”

The area where Abbas lives is known for its social problems. Unemployment is high and along with it comes poverty, addiction and violence. There are few prospects for young people here – and life is not easy.

UNICEF Image: UNICEF image Iran Abbas Jazzi and football team
© UNICEF Iran/2006/Eeles
Abbas poses for the camera before playing a football match.

Football is like medicine

Abbas lives with his mother and 11-year-old sister in one room in a small house in south Tehran. His father died of a brain tumour 11 years ago. Since then his mother has struggled to earn enough to live. She works as a cleaner in two homes and gets a monthly sum of money from her neighbours, who rent two of the rooms in her house.

Two years ago, Abbas decided to leave school to look for work to supplement the family income. He found a job as a tailor’s assistant, cutting thread and making tea.

“I live for my football,” says Abbas, whose favourite player is the Juventus attacker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “It is like medicine for me. Even when I am sick, if I play I feel so much better. It has also taught me a lot about life, about cooperation and achieving goals.”

The match against Ansar Youth doesn’t go well. It is another lesson in life for Abbas.




UNICEF correspondent Miranda Eeles reports from Iran on 16-year-old Abbas Jazzi, who lives for football.
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UNICEF Correspondent Miranda Eeles interviews 16-year-old Abbas Jazzi about how football has improved his life.
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