Up until Thursday night at HBF Park, Iran head coach Maryam Azmoon had only ever seen Sam Kerr on the television.
Watching footage of the Matildas captain light up the Women’s Super League (WSL) with Chelsea, and the international stage in green and gold, Azmoon felt an affection grow that even resulted in the Australian striker earning the Iran coach’s vote for awards distributed by FIFA.
When Azmoon led Iran into battle against the Matildas in Perth on Thursday night, she saw one of the best players in the world in the flesh for the very first time.
She watched Kerr come off the bench with Australia nursing a 1-0 lead.
She watched as Kerr doubled that lead soon after.
Post-game, she was asked to summarise how difficult it is to try and curtail a player of Kerr’s calibre. What came next was a deluge of praise for the Australia skipper, for the Matildas in general, and for her players for showing no fear in taking on one of the best players in the world.
“If I have to be honest with you, we have only seen these players on the TV and we know that they are very strong,” Azmoon said.
“When we wanted to vote for the best women football players for the FIFA website, I have voted for Sam Kerr.
“I really love her, but I told my players that it must be your honour to play against them. Please do not feel afraid of them and do your best.
“My players, they didn’t feel afraid of them… my players played with their hearts, because we are representative (millions of) people in Iran, and half of them must be women and they pray for us. That’s why I think that my players were so brave to play against this team.
“I really congratulate the head coach and also Australia. We wish that they could qualify (for) the Olympics and have a great (tournament) there also.”
The Matildas beat Iran 2-0 on Thursday night, with Kerr and Ellie Carpenter scoring on either side of half-time. The Matildas will take on the Philippines next at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon, before Iran face Chinese Taipei at the same venue in a double-header on Sunday evening.
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