In our latest historically charged hypothetical XI, Bantr‘s Ben Davies compiles a team to represent the length and breadth of the ancient empires of Persia…
The Persians certainly know how to knock an empire together. First kicked off around 600 BC by King Cyrus, no relation to Miley, the somewhat ambitious dominion became the biggest empire the world had ever seen. Before Alexander The Great rolled into town in 330 AD, their dominance at one point spanned from Egypt to India and pretty much every piece of land in-between.
Last time we personally checked in with the Persians was at the cinema in 2006 AD when their momentous army got their backsides handed to them by 300 greased up body builders. In a desperate bid to display bouncebackability, we’ve composed a Persian XI to win back the respect of Gerard Butler and the masses.
Our side consists of 11 players born and bred in land once governed by the Persians and now defined by modern day nations. From Pakistan to Armenia, Kuwait to Israel, our selection policy has mainly comprised of Ancient border research that Indiana Jones would be proud of.
The result is quite the cosmopolitan crew and includes personnel familiar, undiscovered and on the brink of making it big.
GK: Jaffar Khan
Jaffar (almost certainly nicknamed ‘cake’ in the dressing room) has been Pakistan’s number 1 since 1998, notching up a solid 67 caps. He plys his trade for the cheerily named Pakistan Army FC. As well as once going 1170 minutes without conceding for his club side, he missed the 2007 season after being called up to Sierra Leone to assist in a US peacekeeping operation. Don’t mess with Jaffar.
Defender: Tal Ben Haim
We’re picking the chunky Israeli international for his considerable experience and versatility in the Premier League where he became main stay across Bolton’s back four. His impressive displays afforded him a brief if somewhat unspectacular run out for Manchester City and Chelsea. Oh well, if he’s good enough for Jose Mourinho to see something in him, he’s good enough for us.
Defender: Zurab Khizanishbili
Zurab has clocked up 86 appearances for Georgia, more than anyone else in the present-day squad. We’re picking him for his determination and thick skin. He spent two promising years at Rangers before being passed around the loan system, putting in temporary shifts for the likes of Blackburn and Newcastle United. He’s played on the big stage too – albeit he gave away a penalty that helped Swansea beat Reading in the 2011 Championship playoff final. Character-building stuff.
Defender: Rashad Sadygov
Experience and leadership wins the day again in the back four. Azerbaijan legend Sadygov has played 80 times for his national side. Best of all, this guy is versatile – very versatile. In 2006 he missed the transfer deadline to sign for Azerbaijan side PFC Neftchi which effectively left him jobless. Instead of twiddling his thumbs, he played basketball for a year with local club BK NTD. We will almost certainly be erecting a basketball net at the Persian XI training camp.
Defender: Youssef Mohammed
Quite possibly the most successful player in Lebanon’s history, Youssef chiseled out an impressive career for himself in the Bundesliga. His career peaked at FC Koln where he booted the ball up to Lukas Podolski for three years and even had a spell as captain. Another chief into the mix, Youssef has had the armband for the national side since 2004. Robust and strong in the tackle, take a seat Youssef.
Midfielder: Ali Karimi
Another ex-Bundesliga player to add to our ranks, Ali played two seasons for Bayern Munich from 2005-2007 surely laying the key foundations for the side to defeat Barcelona 7-0 just six short years later. The skilful dribbler has been pretty darn handy for the national side too, scoring 28 goals in 127 games and was a starter for Iran in World Cup 2006. Perhaps controversially considering the origins of the empire, he’s our sole Iranian representative.
Midfielder: Hamit Altintop
There’s every chance you recognize that name. A few years back the Turkish international was awarded the FIFA Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of 2009, a thirty yard thunderbolt volley from a corner-kick cross. Kaboom. As well as splatting the ball into next week, he can lay on a fine through ball and can name-drop at will – in 2011 he played a season with Real Madrid.
Midfielder: Yossi Benayoun
The former Liverpool and Chelsea star is certainly our big stand-out player. Despite weighing less than a feather, the Israel captain has had a muscular career. Renowned for slaloming through defenders with the G-force of a fighter jet, he’s a threat to any top class defence. Happily he knows where the goal is too, scoring 24 times for Israel including two hat-tricks. Fact fans – he started his career as a teenager by heroically hitch-hiking his way to each training session.
Number 10: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
This guy is something a little bit special. The talismanic attacking midfielder has won Armenian player of the year in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and he’s highly rated in Europe too – he landed a place in the UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying dream team after knocking in a stunning six goals in that single campaign. Aged just 23 and a leading light at Shaktar Donetsk, he has all the attributes and playmaker flair to soon become a household name across the continent.
Striker: Balal Arezou
9 goals in 10 international games, the Afghanistan international certainly has some eye-catching stats. That glut of goals includes 4 unstoppable strikes against Bhutan in the 2011 South Asian Championships. His performance helped him win player of the tournament, although sadly the Afghans came up just short, losing 1-0 in the final to India. Lethal in front of goal and aged just 24 he is the jewel in the crown of Afghan football.
Striker: Bader Al-Mutwa
Bader has some pretty eye-catching stats himself. Since his international debut in 2004, he has scored 43 times For Kuwait. He’s also scored 62 goals in 72 games for Kuwaiti side Qadsia. Last summer it looked pretty likely that we would get a much closer look at the sharpshooter who marries poaching skills with spectacular goals. He impressed on trial with Nottingham Forrest and was all set to sign a permanent contract until issues over a work permit scuppered the deal. So near and yet so far for poor Bader. Getting him a permit to play for a crumbled Empire may prove just as tricky.
Check out the official Bantr site here.