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He didn’t wear a tie. He said they were for conservatives and if there was one thing he certainly wasn’t it was a conservative.

A conservative wouldn’t have driven a crappy little car from Asia across Europe. Wouldn’t have revelled in the uprising of Paris in 1968. Wouldn’t have taken on the Iranian authorities when he was coach of the national team and could have kept his head down.

A conservative wouldn’t have had the balls to give his players the freedom to play football as it should be played, with improvisation, skill and daring.

A conservative is driven by fear, and that wasn’t Bahman Foroutan. He was driven by romance, by moral certainty, by idealism. There is no doubt that this is also what often made him a pain in the arse, but it’s what made me fall in love with him immediately.

Foroutan had been in charge of Türkiyemspor for only three games when I first met him, back in 2010. They had just demolished Oberneuland 5-0 at home – he had kept them up by the skin of their teeth, winning three games on the bounce, a feat that seemed impossible just a couple of weeks previously – but he wasn’t going to bask in the flush of victory.

It wasn’t for him to throw platitudes out to the collected journalists, the way one throws sardines to a sea-lion in a cramped Florida pool in front of a thousand gawping tourists in Hawaiian shirts and Mickey Mouse ears.

He did what he always does. He came out fighting for what he thought was right. He knew that the game itself was far more important than that.

He delivered a monologue interspersed with pointed pauses, partly for effect, to let his message sink in, and partly because he was speaking in his third language. He did so inimitably, fearlessly, wittily and coherently.

He singled out a journalist from kicker, he attacked Theo Zwanziger, at the time the president of the DFB, and a man he had known for years. He took aim at a new football club that had been founded in Leipzig out of the ashes of SSV Markrandstädt.

“They are going to spend 100 million Euros in the next four years and a club like Tennis Borussia can go into insolvency for only 500,000?” he asked incredulously.

TeBe are still grappling with the chaos that came in the wake of that implosion. Türkiyem would face the same within two years, almost destroying the club.

For this was madness, he said. Football was supposed to be the people’s game. The one that other greying, short, romantic football manager, Bobby Robson, had summed up so perfectly.

What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city… it’s falling in love.

Foroutan was willing to take them all on. This little man with a pot belly, braces holding up the trousers of his rumpled grey suit, a flat cap hiding the thinning of his grey hair. It was utterly compelling. Delightfully antagonistic.

He didn’t care whose nose he put out of joint.

He would fight for the right of football clubs to be able to exist without being at the behest of market forces. To keep them from the grip of conservatives.

“You don’t care about amateur football,” he thundered. “Just you watch, our teams are being gradually destroyed”.

It was the most astonishing press conference I have ever seen. I was lucky to be there. It ended with a standing ovation.

I met him again some years later for dinner with his family at his home near the Jahn-Sportpark. He said he loved the house because he could see the floodlights come on at night when a game was on.

We ate lamb he’d started cooking the day before, so tender it melted like chocolate in your mouth. There were beans the texture of marshmallows. Rice cooked with raisins the way he’d always had it back home in Iran, where he’d learned football the way it is supposed to be played from the progressive imams that taught him at school.

They welcomed me in as an equal. An honoured guest. And we talked about politics and family, football and Berlin. We drank wine and then vodka before I excused myself, my language skills following my cognitive ones out of the open window into the clear night sky of Prenzlauerberg.

I haven’t seen Bahman for years, now. I presume he’s okay, that he’s still fighting for what he knows is right. That he is still as in love with the game as ever he was.

And that he’ll still never wear a tie.

Not like those conservatives. Those fearful souls who are terrified of change, terrified of the people. And of their football clubs who they’ll make sure never have the cash or the support from the authorities to compete with the likes of a soft drinks manufacturer from Austria.


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