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Esteghlal F.C.

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Esteghlal F.C.
Esteghlal FC.svg
Full name Esteghlal Tehran Football Club
Nickname(s) Esteghlal Fc
Founded September 26, 1945; 71 years ago (1945-09-26) as Docharkheh Savaran
Ground Azadi Stadium
Ground Capacity 78,116[1]
Chairman Reza Eftekhari
Manager Alireza Mansourian
League Persian Gulf Pro League
2015–16 Persian Gulf Pro League, 3rd
Website Club home page
Current season

Esteghlal Tehran Football Club (Persian: باشگاه فوتبال استقلال تهران, meaning independence) until 1979 known as Taj Tehran Football Club (Persian: باشگاه فوتبال تاج تهران, meaning Crown) is an Iranian professional football club based in Tehran that plays in the Persian Gulf Pro League. Esteghlal F.C. is the football club of the multisport Esteghlal Athletic and Cultural Club (Persian:باشگاه فرهنگی ورزشی استقلال تهران).

Founded in 1945 initially as Docharkhe Savaran (دوچرخه سواران) meaning "The Cyclists" in Persian and later in 1949, the name of the club was first changed to Taj (تاج) that means "Crown" in Persian. The name of the club was finally modified into Esteghlal (Persian: استقلال‎‎) that is the current name of the club, meaning "Independence", subsequent to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In 1970, under the management of Zdravko Rajkov, Esteghlal Tehran became the first Iranian football club to win the Asian Club Championship.

They have won several official titles on the national and international stage since 1970, including eight Iranian League (1st tier) titles[2] and a record 6 Hazfi Cups.[3][4] There are two golden stars above the team's official badge to represent winning two titles in Asian Club Championship (1970 and 1991).



Esteghlal's former emblem

On September 20, 1945 three Iranian military officers—Mirzani, Jananpour and Navab—started a sports club on Ferdowsi Street, Tehran. Since the founders of the club were mostly interested in cycling, the club's original name was Docharkhe Savaran (Persian: دوچرخه سواران‎‎), meaning 'The Cyclists' in Persian. Esteghlal football club played its first official match in 1946.

Emerging success

From the beginning Taj or Docharkeh Savaran competed in the Tehran Local League, which at the time was the highest ranked league in Iran. On March 6, 1950, Taj played its first official game in front of over 20,000 spectators in Amjadieh Stadium against Shahin; Taj managed a close 1–0 win. Later in that year, the club's name was officially changed to Taj which means crown in Persian. In 1970, Taj defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel 2–1 in the final to win its first ever Asian Club Championship.

1979 Revolution

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the club was confiscated by the newly established Islamic government and put under the control of the Physical Education Organization of Islamic republic of Iran (Persian: سازمان تربیت بدنی جمهوری اسلامی ايران‎‎), a governmental organization, and changed its name to Esteghlal (Persian: استقلال‎‎), 'Independence' in Persian; Taj (Persian: تاج ‎‎) means 'Crown' in Persian. After the revolution, any sign of the previous monarchist regime was not tolerated.

Post Revolution

Esteghlal in 1989

During the 1980s, Esteghlal won the Tehran Football League twice. The 1989–90 season was a memorable one for Esteghlal. The club finished 1st in Group B of the Qods League and advanced to the semi-finals. Esteghlal defeated Malavan 4–0 on aggregate to advance to the final against the hated rival: Persepolis. Esteghlal defeated Persepolis 2–1 through a 74th-minute goal by Samad Marfavi to win the Qods League; this proved to be one of the most memorable derbies for Esteghlal. In the following season, Esteghlal made it to the final of the Hazfi Cup only to lose to Malavan on penalties. 1991 proved to be one of Esteghlal's most memorable years as they won the Asian Club Championship for the 2nd time defeating Chinese club Liaoning 2–1. Esteghlal once again reached the final of the Asian Club Championship in 1999, this time losing to Japanese club Júbilo Iwata 1–2.

Iran Pro League

2001 marked the first year of the newly founded Iran Pro League. Going into the final day, Esteghlal was on top of the league's table; however, with an Esteghlal loss and a Persepolis win, Persepolis was crowned as the league's inaugural champion. However, the 2001–02 Hazfi Cup provided some consolation for Esteghlal as they beat Fajr Sepasi 4–3 on aggregate to win the cup. The 2002–03 season was one of the worst years in club history, as they finished 9th under the management of Roland Koch and were eliminated in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.

Ghalenoi Era

In July 2003, Amir Ghalenoi was appointed manager of Esteghlal. In his first year, Esteghlal finished runner-up in the league, finishing two points behind the champion Pas Tehran. Ghalenoi also made it to the final of the Hazfi Cup losing 2–5 on aggregate to Sepahan. His second season proved to be less successful as Esteghlal finished 3rd and failed to qualify to the AFC Champions League. However, the 2005–06 season was a completely different year; Esteghlal were crowned champions of the Iran Pro League for the first time in the Pro League era. At the end of the season, Ghalenoi left Esteghlal for the national team job.

League Troubles

In 2006 after the departure of Amir Ghalenoi, his assistant and youth team coach Samad Marfavi took over the head-coaching job. Esteghlal had a disappointing season, finishing fourth, thus failing to secure a spot in the AFC Champions League, as well as only reaching the Round of 16 in the Hazfi Cup with a shock defeat to Fajr Sepasi. After Marfavi's departure in August 2007, another Esteghlali great, former goalkeeper Nasser Hejazi took over; but after only 14 games and 4 defeats, Hejazi was fired as manager in November 2007. Firouz Karimi was hired as the temporary head coach for the remainder of the season; he did not fare much better than Hejazi and the team finished 13th in the league, its lowest finish ever. Firouz Karimi was fired in May 2008 and Amir Ghalenoi was hired again in July 2008.

He quickly regrouped the team and the Hazfi Cup proved to be a valuable consolation, as Esteghlal became champions after defeating Pegah Gilan 3–1 on aggregate, thus securing a Champions League spot after a two-year absence. During Ghalenoi's first full and only season in his second stint with Esteghlal, he led the team to an Iran Pro League championship, finishing ahead of Zob Ahan on goal difference. However, after a group stage exit in the AFC Champions League, Ghalenoi resigned.

Samad Marfavi took the reigns of Esteghlal for a second time; Marfavi led the team to a 3rd place league finish in the 2009–10 season and also led the team to the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions League, losing to Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia 2–3 on aggregate. In the spring of 2010, Marfavi extended his contract for another year, but strangely a few days later he resigned. This time Esteghlal turned to Parviz Mazloumi, a former Esteghlal player in the 1980s. During his 2-year tenure with Esteghlal, he led the team to 2nd and 3rd place league finishes, as well as a Hazfi Cup trophy in 2012. After a 0–2 loss to fellow countrymen Sepahan in the Round 16 of the AFC Champions League, Mazloumi was sacked by the club and Amir Ghalenoi took the reins of Esteghlal for a third time.

Return of Ghalenoi

The new era started with an exciting year for Esteghlal as both former Aston Villa man Jlloyd Samuel and Iran national football team captain Javad Nekounam joined the team. With these players, Ghalenoi had no trouble leading Esteghlal to a comfortable league victory in his first season back. The team also made it to the semi-finals of the Hazfi Cup which they eventually lost to Sepahan. The year was also marked by advancing to the AFC Champions League semi-finals where they met Korean side FC Seoul. After a 0–2 away loss in the first leg, Esteghlal faced an uphill task; they returned to the Azadi Stadium with much belief but eventually lost to FC Seoul 2–4 on aggregate.

The next season however was a disappointing one for Ghalenoi and his team. With a chance to win the league on the final match day, Esteghlal lost 1–3 to Tractor Sazi and dropped to 5th place, and out of a champions league slot. Esteghlal also faced a shock defeat at the hands of Mes Kerman in the Hazfi Cup semi-finals. To top off Esteghlal's horrendous year, the team failed to reach the AFC Champions League knock-out stage, finishing 3rd in its group. Amir Ghalenoi earned the title of "General" from the club's fans for his performance.

Mansourian Era

After Esteghlal's defeat to Zob Ahan in the Hazfi Cup final on May 29, 2016; Parviz Mazloomi was fired and replaced by former player and Naft Tehran's head coach Alireza Mansourian on June 1, 2016. Esteghlal started the season poorly and were knocked out of the Hazfi Cup in the Quarter-finals by Naft Tehran. The club was also issued a transfer ban for the 2017 winter period for outstanding debts to Adil Chihi. On 7 February 2017, Esteghlal defeated Qatari club Al Sadd on penalties to advance to the 2017 AFC Champions League group stage.

Tehran Derby

Main article: Tehran derby
Other important rivalries: Esteghlal–Sepahan rivalry

The club's biggest rival and its opponent in the Tehran derby is Persepolis. The first derby match between the clubs took place on April 5, 1968 at Amjadieh Stadium. Today, all derbies and home matches are played at the Azadi Stadium which is usually sold out for the derby.

In 1995, IRIFF began to invite foreign referees to officiate the derby to ease fans and players suspicions of referee bias. This occurred after the events of the 38th derby (January 20, 1995) in which Persepolis was leading by a score of 2–0 until the 79th minute when Esteghlal scored two goals within 8 minutes to erase the deficit; 1st goal was scored from the penalty spot which angered the Persepolis fans and players who felt the referee was biased towards Esteghlal. Persepolis fans stormed the field in the 88th minute and fights broke out on the pitch between fans and players. Following the match, it was decided that Iranian referees would no longer be used for the derby. After 14 years of foreign referees, the second leg of the 2008–09 season saw an Iranian once again refereeing the derby. The game ended in a draw with goals coming from Mojtaba Jabari and Maziar Zare.

Supporters and fans

Esteghlal fans

Esteghlal is one of the highest supported teams in Iranian and Asian football. The club is based in Tehran and is popular in all parts of the country. Esteghlal also has a fan base in the United States, Europe and Persian Gulf countries.

Famous fans


Main article: Azadi Stadium
Esteghlal fans celebrating their team's league title championship in the last match of the 2012–13 season at the Azadi Stadium.

The Azadi Stadium is Iran's national stadium and the largest in the country. The Azadi Stadium officially had a capacity of 100,000 people at the beginning[56][57] and was built to host the 1974 Asian Games. The stadium is part of the much larger Azadi Sports Complex and is surrounded by a rowing river, football training pitches, a weightlifting complex, swimming facilities and indoor volleyball and futsal courts, among many other amenities. Today, Azadi Stadium has a capacity of 78,116 after renovations in 2016.[58]

Esteghlal's home stadium is Azadi (Persian: ورزشگاه آزادی‎‎), a football stadium in Tehran, Iran. The Stadium's former name was Aryamehr Stadium which was changed after the Iranian Revolution. The stadium has been filled over capacity on numerous occasions; for example, when it has faced rivals Persepolis in the Tehran derby or in several AFC Champions League matches. Prior to the construction of Azadi, Esteghlal used to play their games at Amjadieh Stadium.


Current squad

Esteghlal team in 2016–17 season
See also: 2016–17 Esteghlal F.C. season

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

No. Position Player
1 Iran GK Mehdi Rahmati (Captain)
2 Iran DF Khosro Heydari (Vice-captain)
3 Brazil DF Róbson Januário U23 (on loan from Bahia)
5 Iran DF Hossein Kanaanizadegan U23
6 Iran MF Omid Ebrahimi
8 Iran MF Yaghoub Karimi
9 Iran FW Kaveh Rezaei
11 Iran MF Jaber Ansari
13 Iran MF Mi'ad Yazdani
14 Iran MF Farshid Bagheri
15 Armenia DF Hrayr Mkoyan
17 Iran FW Ali Ghorbani
18 Iran DF Milad Zakipour U23
19 Iran GK Arshia Babazadeh U23
No. Position Player
21 Iran DF Vouria Ghafouri
22 Iran GK Hossein Hosseini
24 Iran MF Omid Noorafkan U21
27 Iran MF Hossein Hosseini U23
28 Iran MF Mohsen Karimi U23
30 Iran DF Azim Gök U21
31 Iran MF Alireza Sayyar U23
33 Iran DF Majid Hosseini U21
37 Iran MF Mehdi Rajabifar U21
74 Iran MF Mojtaba Haghdoust U21 (on loan from Naft Tehran)
77 Iran FW Behnam Barzay
88 Iran MF Farshid Esmaeili U23
90 Brazil DF Leandro Padovani
  • List of Esteghlal squad in Iran Football league Organization[59]
  • [U19 = Under 19 Player | U21 = Under 21 Player | U23 = Under 23 Player][60]

Out on loan

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

No. Position Player
4 Iran MF Roozbeh Cheshmi (to Iran Saba Qom)
No. Position Player
44 Uzbekistan MF Server Djeparov (to Iran Sepahan)

For recent transfers, see List of Iranian football transfers summer 2017.

Notable players

Club captains

Mehdi Rahmati is Esteghlal's current captain

Esteghlal captains since 1990

# Name Captaincy
Iran Shahin Bayani 1990–1992
Iran Amir Ghalenoei 1992–1997
Iran Javad Zarincheh 1997–2000
Iran Mehdi Pashazadeh 2000–2003
Iran Mahmoud Fekri 2003–2007
Iran Ali Reza Mansourian 2007–2008
Iran Farhad Majidi 2008–2013
Iran Mehdi Rahmati 2013–2014
Iran Amir Hossein Sadeghi 2014–2015
Iran Reza Enayati 2015

World Cup players

Olympic players

Women's Team

Esteghlal (former name:Taj) was the first club in Iran that established a team for women's football.For reaching this goal the club has made some camps for training players.[61][62] The women's team which competed in the Kowsar Women Football League, was dissolved in 2016 due to financial issues.


Coaching staff

current coaching staff of the club
(from left to right: Nasrollah Abdollahi, Behtash Fariba, Alireza Mansourian, Hamid Babazadeh)
Position[63] Name
Head coach Iran Alireza Mansourian
Assistant coach Iran Mohammad Khorramgah
Assistant coach Iran Ali Chini
Assistant coach Iran Saleh Mostafavi
Goalkeeper coach Iran Hamid Babazadeh
Fitness coach England Steven Jones
Physiotherapist Iran Amin Noroozi
Doctor Iran Kaveh Sotoudeh
Analyst Iran Kianoush Forouzesh
Football director Iran Behtash Fariba
Academy director Iran Sadegh Varmazyar
Esteghlal B manager Iran Peyman Saheb Jami
Youth team manager Iran Siavash Akbarpour
Team manager Iran Nasrollah Abdollahi


Reza Eftekhari is the current chairman of the club
Chairman Iran Reza Eftekhari
Deputy chairman Iran Pendar Toufighi
Secretary of the board Iran Pendar Toufighi
Other board members Iran Masoud Moeini
Iran Hassan Zamani
Iran Shahab Jahanian
Iran Mansour Pourheidari

Club managers

Notable managers

Only managers who have won at least one trophy are listed.

Name Period Trophies
Domestic International
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Zdravko Rajkov 1969–76 0 1 2 1
Iran Mansour Pourheidari 1983–86
0 2 2 1
Iran Nasser Hejazi 1996–99 0 0 1 0
Iran Amir Ghalenoie 2003–06
3 2 0 0
Iran Parviz Mazloumi 2010–12
0 1 0 0

IPL managers

Last updated: April 15, 2017

Name Nat From To Record
P W D L Win %
Mansour Pourheidari Iran February 2000 July 2002 26 13 9 4 50%
Roland Koch[64] Germany July 2002 June 2003 26 8 8 10 31%
Amir Ghalenoei[65][66][67] Iran July 2003 July 2006 86 46 30 10 53%
Samad Marfavi[68] Iran July 2006 August 2007 30 14 10 6 47%
Nasser Hejazi Iran August 2007 November 2007 14 5 5 4 36%
Firooz Karimi Iran November 2007 May 2008 20 6 5 9 30%
Amir Ghalenoei[69] Iran July 2008 June 2009 34 19 9 6 56%
Samad Marfavi[70] Iran July 2009 June 2010 34 16 11 7 47%
Parviz Mazloumi Iran June 2010 May 2012 68 37 20 11 54%
Amir Ghalenoei Iran June 2012 June 2015 92 47 26 19 51%
Parviz Mazloumi Iran June 2015 June 2016 30 13 13 4 43%
Alireza Mansourian[71] Iran June 2016 Present 27 14 9 4 48%


Chairman Tenure
Iran Parviz Khosravani September 1945 – June 1960
Iran Parviz Sheikhan June 1960 – February 1979
Iran Ali Abdullahi Nourozi May 1979 – May 1983
Iran Kazem Oliaei January 1988 – May 1996
Iran Ali Fathollahzadeh May 1996 – May 2003
Iran Hossein Gharib June 2003 – July 2005
Iran Kazem Oliaei July 2005 – December 2005
Iran Hossein Gharib December 2005 – September 2006
Iran Meghdad Najafnejad September 2006 – May 2007
Iran Ali Fathollahzadeh May 2007 – September 2008
Iran Amir Reza Vaezi Ashtiani September 2008 – May 2010
Iran Ali Fathollahzadeh June 2010 – May 2014
Iran Bahram Afsharzadeh May 2014 – August 2016
Iran Reza Eftekhari August 2016 – present




1st, gold medalist(s) Winners (8): 1970–71, 1974–75, 1989–90, 1997–98, 2000–01, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2012–13
2nd, silver medalist(s) Runners-up (8): 1973–74, 1991–92, 1994–95, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2003–04, 2010–11


1st, gold medalist(s) Winners (6):, 1976–77, 1995–96, 1999–00, 2001–02, 2007–08, 2011–12
2nd, silver medalist(s) Runners-up (4): 1989–90, 1998–99, 2003–04, 2015–16


  • Tehran Football League (Record):
    • Winners (13): 1949–50, 1951–52, 1957–58, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1961–62, 1963–64, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1983–84, 1985–86, 1991–92
    • Runners-up (6): 1946–47, 1958–59, 1969–70, 1982–83, 1989–90, 1990–91
  • Tehran Hazfi Cup (Record):
    • Winners (4): 1947, 1951, 1958, 1959


1st, gold medalist(s) Winners (2): 1970, 1990–91
2nd, silver medalist(s) Runners-up (2): 1991–92, 1998–99

Unofficial titles

  • Caspian Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1996
  • Kish Quartet Competition Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1996
  • Ettehad Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1973
  • Turkmenistan President's Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1998
  • Bordoloi Trophy:
    • Winners (1): 1989
  • Milz Cup:
    • Winners (4): 1969, 1970, 1971, 1989
    • Runners-up (1): 1972
  • Qatar Independence Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1991
  • Emirates Quartet Competition Cup:
    • Runners-up (1): 1996
  • Shohada Cup:
    • Runners-up (1): 2014
  • Velayat International Cup:
    • Third place (1): 2011

Statistics and records

Statistics in IPL

Statistics in ACL

  • Most goals scored in a match: 8 – 0 (1 time)
  • Most goals conceded in a match: 4 – 0 (1 time)
  • Player with the most goals in a single match: Ali Jabari with 3 goals

Statistics in Hazfi Cup

  • Most goals scored in a match: 13 – 0 (1 time)
  • Most goals conceded in a match: 0 – 3 (1 time)
  • Player with the most goals in a single match: Arash Borhani with 5 goals

General statistics

Esteghlal has been the most successful Iranian club in Asia and the most successful football clubs in Iran.

  • Table shows the Iran Premier League rankings for the top five clubs since 2001–02 season (15 seasons).
Pos. Club Seasons Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Best Rank
1 Esteghlal 15 462 224 147 91 658 447 +238 818 Champions
2 Sepahan 15 462 212 146 104 672 446 +226 779 Champions
3 persepolis F.C. 15 462 199 153 110 646 492 +154 743 Champions
4 Zob Ahan 15 462 183 155 124 569 465 +104 703 2nd
5 Foolad 14 428 169 138 121 519 443 +76 645 Champions
  • The following table lists clubs by the number of titles in the Asian Club Championship and AFC Champions League.
Team Winners Runners-up Years won Years runner-up
South Korea Pohang Steelers 3 0 1997, 1998, 2009
Saudi Arabia Al-Hilal 2 3 1991, 2000 1986, 1987, 2014
Iran Esteghlal 2 2 1970, 1990–91 1991, 1999
South Korea Seongnam FC 2 2 1995, 2010 1997, 2004
Saudi Arabia Al-Ittihad 2 1 2004, 2005 2009


For details on seasons, see List of Esteghlal F.C. seasons

Club ranking

Asian club ranking

As of August 8, 2016[72]
Current Rank Country Team
18 Iran Tractor Sazi
19 Iran Persepolis
22 United Arab Emirates Al-Ahli
23 Iran Esteghlal
24 Iran Zob Ahan
25 Thailand Buriram United

World club ranking

As of August 8, 2016[73]
Current Rank Country Team
278 Iran Tractor Sazi
285 Iran Persepolis
308 Spain Levante UD
309 Iran Esteghlal
310 Argentina Newell's Old Boys
313 Iran Zob Ahan


Period Kit manufacturer Sponsor
2008–09 Uhlsport Iran Mobile Market
2010–11 City Bank
2012–13 Refah Bank
2013–14 Merooj
2015–16 361 Degrees Hamrah Aval
2016– Li-Ning


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External links

Preceded by
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Champions of Asia
Succeeded by
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Preceded by
Liaoning FC
Champions of Asia
Succeeded by
Saudi Arabia