Democracy Dies in Darkness

Soccer Insider

World Cup fans’ view: Local businessman unites Iranian Americans with World Cup parties

June 24, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Soccer fans gather at Tysons Biergarten for the Iran-Spain World Cup match. (Emily Giambalvo/The Washington Post/)

Iran’s World Cup match against Spain last week was business as usual for Iman Huschmand. On days like this, the party scene is his workplace.

As the owner of an entertainment company, Huschmand organizes and hosts hundreds of weddings, private parties and corporate events in the D.C. area. But this gathering of Iranians was different.

Instead of being a spectator at an event with personal importance to someone else, this one mattered to him.

“Every year we always do a handful of events that are catered to the Persian community,” said Huschmand, an Iranian American. “My driving force has always been that, through our events, we can bring our small community together.”

Huschmand’s parents fled Iran because his mother was a secretary for the king of Iran before the revolution in the late 1970s, so Huschmand was born in Germany. He lived there for 10 years before moving to the United States.

Through Iranian pop songs, to which Huschmand was introduced as a teenager, he developed a love for music. He then started DJing, and his clients were primarily from the local Iranian American community. Suddenly, Huschmand’s work allowed him to connect with his heritage, and he now sees entertainment as a way he can help Iranian Americans stay in touch with their pasts.

For all three of Iran’s group-stage matches, Huschmand’s company is hosting a viewing party at Tysons Biergarten in exchange for a share of the profits from food and drink sales. The beer garden with a large patio has turned into a World Cup headquarters of sorts, opening at 10 a.m. for the games.

Both owners of Tysons Biergarten have ties to Iran: Matt Rofougaran lived in Tehran until he was 3 years old, and Paymon Hadjiesmaeiloo was born in Virginia but is Iranian. Thanks to the owners’ connections with the area’s Iranian community, the largest crowd so far has been for the Iran-Morocco game. Iran notched the match’s lone score when Morocco conceded an own goal during stoppage time. Those few minutes, Huschmand said, were the most memorable of his professional career. And if Iran upsets Portugal and advances to the round of 16 for the first time, “that would be like heaven,” Huschmand said.

The gatherings are fueled by passion for soccer, but the lasting result Hadjiesmaeiloo hopes the World Cup will bring carries well beyond the pitch. He wants the public’s perception of Iranians to be based on individuals, not governments.

Nike did not provide cleats to Iran’s national team because of U.S. sanctions against the country. Even though Iran fan Mabood Maghsoudlou said “generally the World Cup has left politics at home,” he pointed out how some fans at the watch party wore clothing that depicts the Iranian flag used during the monarchy, while others wore the slightly different version adopted after the revolution.

“There’s a lot of negativity when Iran is brought onto the news, but during the World Cup, it’s just a bunch of guys playing soccer,” Hadjiesmaeiloo said. “It’s evening the playing field. Now, what they showcase on the field is what the world sees.”

Huschmand calls his role in these Iranian soccer events the “epitome of work and pleasure.” When people hear about what Huschmand does for a living, some assume he’s essentially a professional partygoer. He tries to explain how his weekday work actually consists of all the administrative duties, office work and planning needed to run a business.

But by the time Iran’s game against Spain begins, Huschmand finally gets to relax and enjoy his beer. He looks on as a crowd of fans — some Iranians, some Americans — gather around picnic tables to watch on the large outdoor screen. Many people tell Huschmand he has the best job. On days like this, he agrees.

Read more on the World Cup:

Germany, pushed to an unfamiliar brink, keeps World Cup hopes alive with stunning goal

El Tri moves closer to advancing with 2-1 win over South Korea

Belgium trounces Tunisia and sends a message to the World Cup

All the World Cup tiebreaker rules and knockout round scenarios, explained

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