Asli, Aziz

Aziz Aslimanesh, commonly known as Aziz Asli (عزیز اصلی) was an Iranian goalkeeper in the 60s and 70s. Born in 1937 in Tabriz, he was commonly known as Aziz the Spring (due to his acrobatic leaps) and easily recognized by his purple jersey. The origin of this jersey goes back to a couple of games that Asli played against a Czech selection in which afterwards he exchanged jerseys with their keeper and began utilizing his souvenir.

While initially active in cross country, swimming and wrestling, Asli began receiving goalkeeping training from former national team keeper Aghahosseini (although he occasionally also played defense and forward). Asli played for Daraei (winning Tehran’s league in
1967) and ultimately Persepolis.

In order to determine Iran’s representative for the 1969 Asian club championship, a five-team tournament took place at the beginning of the year with the winner advancing to the Asian competition. Persepolis managed three wins in its initial games. In a nail-biting final game against a Taj team that boasted such players as Ghelichkhani, Talebi and Jabbari, and thanks to Asli’s heroic saves, Persepolis managed a 0-0 tie to win the tournament. Only one week later in Thailand, Persepolis played its first game in a five-team group but with two wins and two losses was eliminated in group play.

During the 1970 derby, after falling behind to Taj, Khordbin seemingly tied the score late in the game for Persepolis although the ref would reverse his decision alleging Khordbin had committed a foul. According to Asli he questioned the ref regarding how could Khordbin have committed a foul if he was the one with the ball and on a breakaway, for which the ref threatened him with expulsion. In return Asli smacked the ref, resulting in his expulsion. The game was awarded as a 3-0 win to Taj and Asli was suspended for a few months. A somewhat similar incident happened in the 1971 derby where the game was tied at one until the 75th minute. In protest to the alleged biased officiating, Persepolis players left the field and this game was also awarded 3-0 to Taj.

During the 1971 season Asli set a record of keeping a clean sheet in the nine first games of the season. When in the 50th minute of the tenth game Shahrbani finally scored against him, his shutout streak ended at 860 minutes.

He made his national team debut in a friendly against Iraq in 1962. With external factors impacting the roster, he represented Iran in two games at the 1964 Olympics, including the 4-0 loss to East Germany in which he made 12 saves. 

In the 1966 Asian Games Asli played an important role, in particular during the two games against Japan and led Iran to a runner up finish. In the 1968 Asian Championship Asli played every minute as Iran would win its first continental championship. He was not called back to the national team afterwards (and according to him due to refusing to kiss the Shah’s hand upon their reception following their championship).

Asli had a respectful relationship with his successor in the national team Hejazi. When Hejazi’s cancer became public knowledge, Asli contacted him and began arrangements for Hejazi to receive treatment in Germany although ultimately it would be too little too late and Hejazi would succumb to his illness in Tehran. He left Iran in 1986 and passed away in 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany after a long illness.