Mike Smith Football Britain Usa Iran city Paris Kuwait city Tehran Turkmenistan darts Mike Smith Football Britain Usa Iran city Paris Kuwait city Tehran Turkmenistan

Wales vs Iran: The story of only previous meeting of World Cup opponents

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The eyes of the world will be on Wales and Iran in Doha on Friday.But the only previous time the two countries met, no-one in Wales was watching and captain Terry Yorath and his team-mates were left wondering what on earth they had stepped into.The date was April 18, 1978, the venue Tehran’s Aryamehr Stadium.American singer Frank Sinatra had performed there a couple of years earlier, but there is no evidence the ruling royal family kept Sinatra waiting as they would the Wales football team.“We couldn’t start the match until the Shah’s son arrived – he was two hours late,” Yorath told the Cymranian blog in 2021.Former winger Mickey Thomas said: “I can’t remember much about the match.

But I do remember a helicopter landing before the game, and we were told the princes were on there.“The stadium was massive and we were taken aback by the size of the crowd.

I think the official attendance was 50,000, but it looked more like 80,000. We couldn’t believe it.”The trip was also to prove a culture shock off the pitch for Mike Smith’s squad, despite them having visited the Middle East seven months earlier for a goalless friendly with Kuwait.Political tensions were running high in Iran and protests were spreading against the Shah of Iran as support grew for the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini.Within a year the Shah, the last Persian monarch, had fled Iran and Khomeini had returned from Paris to take power as the country’s first Supreme Leader.Wales had ventured almost unknowingly into this political maelstrom and spent four days in Tehran, having made an onerous journey from London via Turkmenistan.The match had been arranged as the son of the Shah – a massive Liverpool fan – wanted to watch a British team play at the Aryamehr Stadium.Mid

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