Esteghlal Ahvaz F.C.

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Esteghlal Ahvaz
استقلال اهواز
crest
Full name Esteghlal Ahvaz Football Club
Founded 1948; 69 years ago (1948) as Taj Ahvaz Football Club
Ground Takhti Ahvaz
Ground Capacity 15,000
Owner Mohammad Maleki
Chairman Farshid Faraji
Head Coach Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh
League Azadegan League
2015–16 Azadegan League, TBD (relegated)
Website Club home page

Esteghlal Ahvaz Football Club (Persian: باشگاه فوتبال استقلال اهواز‎‎), commonly known as Esteghlal Ahvaz, is an Iranian football club based in Ahvaz, Khuzestan, that competes in the Azadegan League. The club was founded in 1948 as Taj Ahvaz Football Club (Persian: تاج اهواز‎‎).

The football team plays their home games at the Takhti Ahvaz which has a seating capacity of 15,000. The club is owned and supported by Mohammad Maleki.

Esteghlal Ahvaz is the oldest existing football club in Ahvaz alongside Shahin Ahvaz and has a large history in Khuzestan football.

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

The club was founded as Taj Ahvaz Football Club by Hakim Shoushtari in 1948. The club was one of Taj Tehran branches at the time. From the beginning Taj Ahvaz was able to attract some of the best players of Khuzestan.

Before 1970[edit]

Before the 1970s, Iran did not have an official national football league. Most clubs participated in championships of their city or province. In addition to that Taj Ahvaz played in the Khuzestan Premier League until 1970.

1970s[edit]

In 1970, the Local League was created. The league included teams from all Iran in different qualifying tournaments. Taj Ahvaz finished first in Group A of their qualifying tournament. After losing the semifinal, Taj Ahvaz defeated Javanan Isfahan 2–0 in the third-place match.

The club also participated in the 1971–72 Local League season. Taj Ahvaz missed again qualification for the final stage after defeating 0–2 by Sepahan in the semifinal of their qualifying tournament. Once again, they achieved third place after a 2–1 win over Tractor Sazi.

In 1972, the Takht Jamshid Cup was founded as the national league and included teams from all over the country. Although Taj Ahvaz was promoted to the Takht Jamshid Cup in 1973, the club had to play in the Khuzestan Premier League anymore. Reason therefore was rule by the Iran Football Federation. They allowed only one team of the same name to participate in the league at that time. Taj Tehran played in the league already.

1979 Revolution[edit]

After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Taj Ahvaz changed its name into Esteghlal Ahvaz Football Club. Esteghlal means independence in Persian. After the revolution, any sign of the previous monarchist regime was not tolerated.

1980s and 1990s[edit]

Due to the revolution and the Iran–Iraq War, the Takht Jamshid Cup was dissolved and also the lower leagues were unorganized. The war hit Ahvaz and Khuzestan hard. Consequently the people paid very little attention to the club and football in general at that time. In 1989 the Qods League was created as the national football league, but Esteghlal Ahvaz did not participate.

In 1991 the Azadegan League was formed as the top flight of Iranian football. Esteghlal Ahvaz played eight years in the league with average results. After they finished 13th in the 1997–98 Azadegan League season, Esteghlal Ahvaz relegated to Iran Football's 2nd Division.

2000s[edit]

After the Iran Pro League was established as the professional football league of Iran, Azadegan League was declared as the second-highest professional league in the Iranian football league system. Esteghlal Ahvaz won the 2001–02 Azadegan League season and promoted to Iran Pro League.

Due to investment by Ali Shafizadeh, the chairman of the club between 2002 and 2006, Esteghlal Ahvaz had a good team and remained in Iran pro League. They grown in the following years and finished eighth in the 2003–04 Iran Pro League season and fifth one season later.

After they achieved only 12th place in 2005–06 Iran Pro League, Esteghlal Ahvaz finished as runners-up in the 2006–07 season. They continued to be an average team in seasons 2007–08 and 2008–09.

Weak years[edit]

Based on a weak performance during 2009–10 Iran Pro League, Esteghlal Ahvaz finished 18th and relegated to Azadegan League. Only one year later they relegated again due to a lot of instability in 2010–11 Azadegan League as they finished 13th. Esteghlal Ahvaz returned to Azadegan League in 2012. They won the 2011–12 Iran Football's 2nd Division after a 4–3 win over PAS Novin Hamedan. Prior to this, they finished first in their group.

Past on two average seasons, Esteghlal Ahvaz relegated again to League 2. They lost their Play-off match against Shahrdari Tabriz 3–3 on aggregate due to away goals.

Promotion and Relegation[edit]

Although Esteghlal Ahvaz was relegated to League 2, they were able to play in the 2015-16 Persian Gulf Pro League. They get the licence from Foolad Novin, which was actually promoted.[1] Foolad Novin could not promote to Persian Gulf Pro League as they are the reserve side of Foolad Khuzestan. However the team was mismanaged and they were relegated back to the Azadegan League several games before the end of the season.

Crest[edit]

Stadium[edit]

Takhti Ahvaz

Esteghlal Ahvaz plays their home games at the Takhti Ahvaz which has a seating capacity of 15,000.[2] The stadium was opened in 1978 and is owned by the Municipality of Ahvaz. The stadium was renovated in 2005 and 2012. It is also the home venue of local rival Shahin Ahvaz. In the past also Esteghlal Khuzestan and Foolad played their home matches there.

Furthermore Esteghlal Ahvaz played two matches in the 2015–16 Persian Gulf Pro League season at Ghadir. They played also their Hazfi Cup match in this season there.

Supporters[edit]

Esteghlal Ahvaz was for a long time the second highest supported team in Ahvaz after local rival Foolad. Before the foundation of Foolad in 1971, Esteghlal Ahvaz was the highest supported team in Ahvaz. Due to the Iran–Iraq War the people paid very little attention to the club and football in general in the 1980s. Later, the fans comes back and the club had a good support in the 1990s and 2000s, even though Foolad was now the highest supported club in the city.

Based on weak years between 2010 and 2015, the club has to fight with falling attendance numbers and sinking popularity. After Esteghlal Khuzestan won the 2015–16 Persian Gulf Pro League sensational, it seems that Esteghlal Ahvaz is only the third highest supported team in the city now.

Last but not least the fans stands out negative sometimes. For instance the fans thrown stones in a match against Persepolis on 22 April 2016. As a result of this Esteghlal Ahvaz had to play three matches with spectator bans.[3]

Rivalries[edit]

Esteghlal Ahvaz' main rival is Foolad. The club has also smaller rivalries with Esteghlal Khuzestan and Shahin Ahvaz.

Ahvaz Derby[edit]

Esteghlal Ahvaz' longest-running and deepest rivalry is with the other major club in Ahvaz, Foolad Khuzestan. Matches between the two clubs are referred to as the Ahvaz Derby. Before the foundation of Foolad in 1971, Esteghlal Ahvaz was the highest supported team in Ahvaz. Foolad became the highest supported club in the city in the 1990s. The rivalry is based on sporting competition to be the best club in the city. Although Foolad represents the Arab minority of Ahvaz, while the supporters of Esteghlal Ahvaz are primarily Persians, there is no any ethnic rivalry in the derby. After weak seasons of Esteghlal Ahvaz in the past, the derby lost in importance.

Further rivalries[edit]

Other smaller rivalries within Ahvaz include those with Esteghlal Khuzestan and Shahin Ahvaz. The rivalry with Shahin Ahvaz is based on the fact, that these two teams are the oldest existing football clubs in Ahvaz. Similar to the Ahvaz Derby, also the rivalry with Shahin Ahvaz lost in importance since the clubs are playing in different leagues for many years.

Seasons[edit]

The table below chronicles the achievements of Esteghlal Ahvaz in various competitions since 1970.

Season Division League Position Hazfi Cup Notes
1970–71 1 Local League 3rd (Region D)
Not held
1971–72 1 Local League 3rd (Region C)
1991–92 1 Azadegan League 8th
1992–93 1 Azadegan League 5th (Group B)
1993–94 1 Azadegan League 14th
1994–95 1 Azadegan League 4th (Group B)
1995–96 1 Azadegan League 7th
1996–97 1 Azadegan League 9th
1997–98 1 Azadegan League 13th Relegated
1998–99 2 League 2 4th (Group 1) Semi-Final
1999–00 2 League 2 5th (2nd Round)
2000–01 2 League 2 3rd (Group 3)
2001–02 2 Azadegan League 1st (2nd Round) Promoted
2002–03 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 11th
2003–04 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 8th Quarter-Final
2004–05 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 5th Semi-Final
2005–06 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 12th Round of 32
2006–07 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 2nd Quarter-Final Runner-up
2007–08 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 8th Round of 16
2008–09 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 14th Round of 16
2009–10 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 18th Round of 32 Relegated
2010–11 2 Azadegan League 13th (Group B) 3rd Round Relegated
2011–12 3 League 2 1st (Group A) 1st Round Promoted
2012–13 2 Azadegan League 10th (Group A) Round of 32
2013–14 2 Azadegan League 8th (Group A) 3rd Round
2014–15 2 Azadegan League 9th (Group A) Round of 32 Promoted
2015–16 1 Persian Gulf Pro League 16th Round of 32 Relegated
2016–17 2 Azadegan League 2nd Round

Notes:
The Persian Gulf Pro League was formerly known as Iran Pro League (IPL) and Persian Gulf Cup (PGC)
The Azadegan League was the highest league between 1991 and 2001
The League 2 was formerly known as Iran Football's 2nd Division
The League 3 was formerly known as Iran Football's 3rd Division

Honours[edit]

Domestic[edit]

Runners–up (1): 2006–2007
Winners (1): 2001–02
Winners (1): 2011–12

Players[edit]

First team squad[edit]

As of 1 September 2016.

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
10 Iran MF Adel Kolahkaj
13 Iran FW Ali Bigdeli
15 Iran DF Peyman Taleshi U23
20 Iran DF Mehdi Eslami
24 Iran FW Reza Bahmaei U23
25 Iran DF Milad Rabbani U23
26 Iran DF Maki Sharifi
28 Iran FW Mehdi Niyayesh Pour
29 Iran MF Mohammad Javad Kerdouni U21
No. Position Player
31 Iran MF Mojtaba Rashidi U21
32 Iran MF Sadegh Zharfani U21
34 Iran DF Mehdi Yalali U21
36 Iran MF Danial Mousavi U21
38 Iran FW Mirfarzad Majidi
39 Iran DF Adel Masoudifard U23
45 Iran GK Ali Kordani
Iran MF Pedram Ardalany

For recent transfers, see List of Iranian football transfers summer 2016.

Coaches[edit]

Coaches since 1993[edit]

No. Coach from until Major Titles
1 Iran Bahram Atef July 1993 June 2001
0
2 Iran Mehdi Monajati July 2001 2002
3 Iran Jalal Cheraghpour 2002 June 2002 1 Azadegan League
4 Iran Amir Ghalenoei July 2002 June 2003
0
5 Iran Nasser Hejazi July 2003 June 2004
6 Croatia Luka Bonačić July 2004 2005
7 Armenia Martik Khachatourian 2005 2005
8 Iran Mahmoud Yavari 2005 June 2005
9 Serbia Srđan Gemaljević July 2005 June 2006
10 Iran Firouz Karimi July 2006 November 2007
11 Iran Majid Jalali November 2007 May 2008
12 Iran Karim Boustani July 2008 August 2008
13 Iran Mahmoud Yavari August 2008 August 2008
14 Iran Reza Ahadi August 2008 August 2008
15 Iran Akbar Misaghian August 2008 February 2009
16 Iran Khodadad Azizi June 2009 September 2009
17 Iran Majid Bagherinia 2009 2009
18 Iran Mohammad Ahmadzadeh 2009 2009
19 Iran Mehdi Hasheminasab 2009 2009
20 Iran Alireza Firouzi 2009 September 2010
21 Iran Dariush Yazdi September 2010 January 2011
22 Iran Firouz Karimi February 2011 March 2011
23 Iran Afshin Komaei March 2011 March 2011
24 Iran Fereydoon Fazli April 2011 April 2011
25 Iran Dariush Yazdi April 2011 May 2011
26 Iran Adel Hardani July 2011 November 2012
27 Iran Masoud Norouzi November 2012 November 2012
28 Iran Ali Hanteh November 2012 June 2013 1 League 2
29 Iran Davoud Mahabadi July 2013 June 2014
0
30 Iran Dariush Yazdi July 2014 2015
31 Iran Habib Khadirian 2015 2015
32 Iran Fereydoun Hardani 2015 2015
33 Iran Hossein Seyed-Salehi 2015 2015
34 Iran Saber Mirghorbani 2015 June 2015
35 Iran Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh July 2015 October 2015
36 Iran Ali Hanteh November 2015 December 2015
37 Iran Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh January 2016 June 2016
38 Iran Hamidreza Farzaneh July 2016 December 2016
39 Iran Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh January 2017

Club chairmen[edit]

Chairmen since 2002[edit]

No. Coach from until
1 Iran Nasrollah Heibodi 2002
2 Iran Ali Shafizadeh 2002 2006
3 Iran Shahram Shafizadeh 2006 2011
4 Iran Safar Jamalpour 2011 2016
5 Iran Farshid Faraji 2016

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]