Asia's Biggest Rivalries: Persepolis vs Esteghlal, the famous Tehran Derby

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Three Key Games:

September 7, 1973: Persepolis 6-0 Esteghlal

The biggest scoreline in the fixture's history and still talked about to this day, though in some parts of the city more than others.

December 29, 2000: Persepolis 2-2 Esteghlal

Persepolis fans were still sore at losing Mehdi Hasheminasab to their rivals and sure enough, he scored with just four minutes left to give Esteghlal a 2-1 lead and surely another derby win. Up popped Ali Karimi to share the spoils in a bad-tempered game that saw brawls and bad tackles throughout. The bad feeling continued with trouble spreading into the city.

February 25, 2005: Esteghlal 3-2 Persepolis

Persepolis looked to have this in the bag after two late goals gave them a 2-1 lead. Esteghlal fans were starting to file out when Mahmoud Fekri equalised and they were going crazy when, deep into injury time, Pirouz Ghorbani headed home a famous winner.

The crowds are enormous at the shared ground


Arrests, riots, walkouts, protests, match-fixing and accusations of bribery – you never know what you will get at the Tehran Derby.

“Leave early!” is the advice of anyone you ask in the city in relation to Asia's biggest derby, but then given the capital's chronic congestion, the same applies to pretty much anywhere you want to get reach.

But any football fan – and plenty of others – should want to get to this. The atmosphere makes it a necessary entry on any sporting bucket list.

It is not just the 100,000-plus people that make their way to their shared home of the Azadi Stadium in Tehran for the two league games a season, it is not just that people travel to the capital from all corners of the country to try and get inside, and it is not just the fact that the entire Iranian diaspora tunes in.

It is all that and more and has been ever since the two teams first met all those years ago, when Esteghlal, under a different name of 'Taj' which means 'crown', were the team of the Shah and the establishment. Younger, and more popular, Persepolis were traditionally the team of the working classes.

The two teams dominated Iranian football in the 70’s, winning the first five titles of the decade and then all seven between 1996 and 2002. Things have not been quite as glorious since with Persepolis taking one title and Esteghlal three, but wherever they may be in the league, the games are as fiercely contested as ever.

Keep checking back to our hub page for more rivalries in this series. You can also join the conversation using the hashtag #FFTRIVALRIES on our Facebook and Twitter pages.