German footballers mobbed by cheering Iranians in Tehran
TEHRAN: Germany’s footballers were greeted by thousands of cheering locals on Thursday when they arrived in Tehran for Saturday’s friendly against Iran — the first time a major soccer power has visited the country in decades.
Crowds of Iranians at Mehrabad airport greeted the visitors with chants of “Germany, Germany” and “Welcome to Iran” but the numbers were so great that security officials led the German players out through a side entrance. “That was wonderful it’s fantastic to get a welcome like that when you’re the visiting side,” said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” added defender Christian Woerns. “This is just overwhelming.” In Iran, officials said about 1,500 people were on hand at the airport to welcome the Germans. The bus carrying the team to their hotel was accompanied by Iranian fans beeping and waving at the bus from cars and motorcycles. Even though German media have labelled the match the first appearance by a major world soccer power since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ireland played a World Cup qualifying playoff in Tehran in 2001 and Asian teams are regular visitors. The unexpectedly warm reception helped alleviate squad tension between goalkeepers Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann.
While coach Juergen Klinsmann has said both Bayern Munich’s Kahn and Arsenal’s Lehmann have an equal chance of winning the job for the 2006 World Cup, Germany’s goalkeeper trainer Sepp Maier renewed his criticism of Lehmann just before the squad departed. “Lehmann can just forget it, Oliver Kahn is better,” Maier was quoted as saying in Thursday’s Bild newspaper. Klinsmann had warned Maier, also Kahn’s coach at Bayern Munich, after he made a similar comment in August. “Obviously we are going to have to have a talk about it,” Klinsmann said in Tehran. “But we have got to get our priorities right and that is clearly the match on Saturday. “We need to show more respect for each other. One thing is clear: we’re taking note of everything that’s going on.” Lehmann said on Monday he expected to be the starting goalkeeper by the 2006 World Cup and that Maier was a lobbyist for Kahn. As part of a rotation, Lehmann will play Saturday’s match against Iran after Kahn played in September against Brazil. There were other sources of tension on the team with striker Miroslav Klose criticising Kahn for poking him in the nose in a Bundesliga match last week. “I don’t know what got into him,” said the Werder Bremen forward. “He made me look ridiculous. It’s not right.” Bierhoff said he hoped Saturday’s match would promote international relations between Iran and Germany even though Iranian women will be barred from the 100,000 crowd expected. reuters