In the coming years, when people talk about current Iran volleyball team, surely Saeid Marouf will be the player they will mention the most. In fact, Iran’s team captain is symbol of the most successful era of the country’s volleyball team.
For the country with millions of passionate football fans, it was unbelievable that a volleyball player could overshadow football stars but now, Marouf is on a par with the most popular football super stars; to the extent that he could openly criticize governors for their unpaid bonus.
He is the most famous volleyball player in the game history of Iran and this maybe was in his fate because in Persian, Marouf means famous.
North by Northwest
Marouf was born in Urumia, in north-west of Iran. In Urumia, Volleyball is a very popular sport and Saeed’s family had both passion and talent; specially his uncles who played for Shahrdari-e-Urumia for years. Although he experienced different sports through the years like handball and basketball, finally prefered to choose volleyball; even his father was not very satisfied with his choice.
“My mother was always supportive and she approved whatever I wanted to do but my father’s interest was my education and he preferred me to continue studying. He was against professional sports and he would like me to get a PHD in nuclear physics; But I wasn’t a docile boy and followed volleyball seriously after high school graduation”, he said to Zendegi-e-Ideal magazine.
“In early days of my career I was short, so I preferred to play as setter and finally became one! To play as a setter is in our family fate.”
In 2001, Marouf had invited to Iran U-17 team and showed his talent soon. He introduced himself as an intelligent setter and won the bronze medal of U-19 world cup in 2003 and the silver medal at Asian cup.
Ups and Downs with Team Melli
After four years in junior teams, Marouf debuted with the Iran national volleyball team in 2005 but to play in starting line ups, he had to compete with veteran Amir Hosseini. They were the best setters of their generation and none of them wanted to lose his place to the rival. Their competition lasted until 2012 and even Marouf retired from national team for a year because he didn’t want to be number two.
“Currently Velasco preferred to use Amir Hosseini as the main setter and it isn’t in Marouf’s character to sit on the bench”, explained Iran Volleyball Federation President Mohammadreza Davarzani.
But Marouf came back to the team at the best possible time. In one hand, Iran team has been developed with Julio Velasco and attracted more attention and on the other hand, Velasco decided to leave captain Alireza Nadi behind and so, Marouf became Iran’s leader.
Maarouf was the anchor-man of a team that reached to FIVB World league for the first time. After two defeats in their first two matches, Velasco boys trashed Serbia and Italy in their next games and immediately, all of them became national heroes, but Marouf with his calmness and confidence, was distinguished.
He became the new sport celebrity of Iran and even one magazine published his exclusive interview with the title of “In search of a wife for Captain Marouf”. In fact, this was a reflection of his popularity all over the country which no volleyball player in Iran ever reached yet.
With love to Russia
Velasco left Iran in 2013 and Kovac filled his void. With the Serbian on the bench, Marouf found more power in the team and he’d shown better and better performances. His shining had convinced Russian club Zenit Kazan to sign him for $1 million in 2014. He wasn’t the first Iranian Volleyball player who transferred to a foreign club but he was, by far, the most expensive one; although he assured his home town fans that the money was not his motivation to leave.
“I accept this offer because Zenit play in competitive league in Russia and also CEV Champions league. Financial issues were the least reason. Urumia people know I never chose money over them.”
He came back to Shahrdari Urumia one year later but before that, he’d won double with Zenit.
Dream of Olympics
Despite all the success that Marouf earned in his career, he still has a big dream at 30. Iran Volleyball never reached to Olympic Games but they are closer to it more than ever and Marouf is confident that his team could be qualified to Rio 2016.
If Iran team earns Rio ticket, Marouf stature in Iran Volleyball history will be intact more than his colleagues and even Iranian footballers who hadn’t reach to Olympics in last four decades.