To be honest, at first, I wasn’t a footballer; I was a hyperactive street fighter boy! I am an only child. My dad passed away when I was very young and my mum brought me up on her own. We weren’t a wealthy family but we had an easy and happy life.
My background is in football, and in Iran I played at three different levels of national youth team. I was very lucky to be sent to Glasgow because Glasgow is a city of football. I was looking to find a football club and a man whom I met in a shop told me that he’d introduce me to a semi-professional club. I went there and half an hour later they asked me to join in.
Playing and coaching with the Shettleston Juniors FC was very useful for me; as a stranger, it helped me to adapt to my new life. I am now very close with that community. Even at Christmas, I wear the Santa Claus outfit when the club invites people with additional needs from the local area and I give them presents. And that makes me happy.
As a foreigner, on my first day playing football here, I wanted to cry. Because I couldn’t talk to my teammates, I didn’t know the language. Everybody was shouting at me, and I thought that maybe they didn’t like me. But they liked me. They wanted me. They needed me in the game. But the language was a problem.
When I went to college, I had one good thing – I wasn’t too shy to speak. I didn’t think that people would laugh at my accent or because I didn’t know how to say something. When I finished my intermediate English level, my teachers pushed me to enroll into the football course at The North of Glasgow College, and I’m happy there. I work there.
I am a college football coach now, so that’s totally changed my life. Usually we work in the rough areas. We go there to bring football and other activities to avoid drugs, alcohol and fight. You see, in my job I tell the kids you can’t stop the violence by violence. If the kid shouts and you shout back at him maybe he’ll do something worse than that. I’ve seen a boy who was 19 years old and nobody’s ever cuddled him. He wasn’t a happy person. But in football he could make at least 20 friends.
Kids have a lot of energy; they don’t want to stay in front of the TV and eat chips and get bigger and bigger. They come and play, and they use their energy, they go back home and they don’t fight. They go to bed. When kids are happy – my job is done.
I’m not from Glasgow but I’m a part of Glasgow. I came here, these people, this government, this country saved my life and I’ve been respected here. I help the kids and it is the best way I can be useful to this country, because I have to be! And I love my job, and I love my life! I don’t want to be a saint, I want to be a simple man. I can’t save the world, no. But if every year I can save only one young life from the alcohol and drugs, my job is done. Interview by: Migrant Voice Photo by: Karen Gordon