Saeid Marouf: Iran’s “famous” captain

Monday, 08 Feb 2016
Behnam Jafarzadeh - @bjk1029
Photo: FIVB

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 volleyball, all players ‎have ‎to be smart but setter is different. A setter has to decide quickly and should have the ‎courage to risk.

“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. ‎

The main target of Federation and team is going through to Olympics. We ‎could qualify in Japan and our chance is more than 90 percent.

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.‎