Iran does have an interesting sporting history. Polo is believed to have originated in Iran and was certainly played during the reign of Darius the Great. A couple of millennia later, the huge main square of Esfahan was used for polo matches that would be watched by the Safavid Shah Abbas I from the balcony of the Ali Qapu Palace. Today you can still see the burly stone goal posts at either end of the square while stylised polo matches can be seen in thousands of miniature paintings. Real-life polo has made a tentative comeback in recent years, though you’ll do very well to see it.
Another ancient sport peculiar to Iran is the zurkhaneh (literally, ‘house of strength’).
On the international stage, Iran has enjoyed considerable success in wrestling, weightlifting and tae kwon do – all of Iran’s 46 Olympic medals (including 10 gold) have been won by men competing in these sports. As well as football, Iran competes internationally in volleyball, fencing, track, shooting and martial arts.