Courtesy: The AFC.comAsia’s futsal superstar Karimi eyeing a second titleTuesday, May 8, 2018
Bangkok: Three years after her dazzling performances helped the Islamic Republic of Iran become the AFC Women’s Futsal Championship’s inaugural champions, Fereshteh Karimi remains a force to be reckoned with.
After contributing six goals, including the winner in the final, and being voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player in the 2015 edition, Karimi has resumed her outstanding form in Thailand with back to back player of the match awards.
The 29-year-old was outstanding in her side’s impressive victories over Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, scoring four goals as Iran advanced to the quarter-finals with imperious ease.
Spectacular futsal and continental silverware in 2015 made the Karimi and her teammates household names in their home country, and the prodigy from the south of Tehran sees the buzz surrounding team as a source of motivation.
“After winning the 2015 championship we became known well in our country,” she revealed.
“The big TV shows in Iran invited us, which allowed the people to get to know us well and I was really satisfied with that.
“It makes us stronger to know that our people expect us to win matches and be the best.”
Fereshteh’s national team head coach Shahrzad Mozafar confirmed there was a sharp rise in interest in the national team following their success in Malaysia.
“I think winning (AFC Women’s Futsal) Championship in 2015, was a big step for people to know that this team are champion athletes,” she explained.
“Now, even for people in Iran who aren’t able to watch Fereshteh play, she is really well known because people follow the news about the team and see videos on the internet.
“Fereshteh and some of the other players are really quite famous now, but to me, all of the players in my team are the MVP.”
Having found the back of the net a remarkable 23 times in their first two matches, Karimi and her teammates look as likely as anyone to lift the trophy on May 12 - and that’s precisely what she is aiming for.
“We came here to defend our title,” she said.
“The team so far has been very strong. We are missing about half the players we had in 2015, and we have some new young players who are experiencing this tournament for the first time.
“Some of the players who are no longer in the team were the most experienced players, so the new players are trying to cover for their qualities.”
Iran’s performances so far have hardly carried the hallmarks of an inexperienced side, but they may well face a tougher test against an improving China PR side in Wednesday’s quarter-final.
Hu Jie’s side gave 2015 finalists Japan a competitive battle in their 6-4 group stage loss on Monday, and Karimi is expecting a similarly difficult encounter.
“We know China because we had the experience against them last year,” she said, referring to Iran’s 5-1 win at the Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat.
“But we also know them because we had friendly matches against them in Tehran around a month ago,”
“We know them well, we regard them as a good team and we’ll need to do our best.”
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari