I have already written about events that do not appear in any official Volleyroos history. The 1988 Bicentennial Cup and 1988 Trans Tasman Cup were the previous instalments. Here is another. The following story and photos were supplied by Niels Kingma. Many thanks to him and as always any additional photos and anecdotes will be happily added where appropriate.
VTAM was invited to tour Iran in January/ February 1988 to participate in the “Ten Days of Dawn International Tournament” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. At the time, Iran was at war with Iraq which contributed to several senior players choosing not to participate in the tour. For our personal safety, the Australian Volleyball Federation advised us to always wear a piece of clothing featuring a kangaroo while in Iran to avoid being misidentified as Americans. Senior players and staff who toured, had to get new passports as they had been in Iraq for the Asian Championships tour previously and could have been refused entry to Iran.
Australian Roster: Phil Borgeaud (c, Qld), Russell Borgeaud (Qld), Bruce Bourner (Qld), Andrew Burdin (WA), Kieran Cranley (WA), Niels Kingma (Qld), Gabriel Mauerhofer (Vic), Paul Mouncey (Qld), Matthew Perry (Vic), Mark Zervaas (Vic) ,Coach: Tomas Santamaria, Assistant Coach: Ross Symonds, Manager: Bob Rowe, Referee: John Byrnes
After a layover in Bombay (+- 24 hrs of which around 10 hours at the airport) the team arrived in Tehran, settled into what used to be the Hilton Hotel and prepared for their first trainings. Other teams at the tournament included the National Team of Pakistan, Japanese Universities National Selection, Iranian club teams and Bulgarian National Youth Team. In our pool matches we played two Iranian club teams as well as the Bulgarians. If I remember correctly, we lost all matches and didn’t progress in the tournament.
After the tournament we were committed to a tour in the provinces of Iran and we had been allocated to tour the north-western regions of Iran. After flying to Tabriz, we proceeded by bus to the west, gradually getting closer to Iraq and what amounted to a province in a state of war. Armed patrols roamed the roads, reinforced gun positions were visible on the hilltops and we travelled on with our own allotment of armed soldiers in the bus. A weird experience, but there was no particular feeling of danger once we accepted these conditions.
In the provinces we played another two matches against local club teams, winning both relatively easily. The match we played in Urmia (Orumiyeh) was particularly memorable. The excess crowd that hadn’t been able to get into the (overcrowded) gym broke down the doors and the free zone was gradually filled with spectators. As we finished the match off 3-0, our Islamic Guards assembled us in the middle of the court and formed a protective cordon around us. As Phil Borgeaud put it: “Not easy to shake hands with around 300 at people at once, even if they have the best intentions.”. In the end it took a couple of hours for the crowd to disperse and for us to be able leave the gym.
Back in Tabriz we were reminded of the local reality by two events. The first was a bombing raid on Tabriz on our final day in the province. We heard the air-raid sirens but were too innocent (Australian) to know what to do. In the end there was no immediate danger anyway… The second event hit closer to home; as we boarded the plane back to Tehran, there were multiple rows on the plane with the seatbacks folded down. The amputee soldiers which were installed in these rows en masse remains one of the most vivid images I carry from that tour.
Following a brief stay in Tehran we flew back to Australia via Dubai. We were to proceed straight to Canberra to join the rest of VTAM where we would participate in a training camp at the AIS under the guidance of Doug Beal. Leaving Iran, we received the tragic news of the untimely death of Ted Kalkhoven in a car accident back home.
Match 1 – Ten Days of Dawn Tournament – AUS v ?? ??-3
Match 2 – Ten Days of Dawn Tournament – AUS v ?? ??-3
Match 3 – Ten Days of Dawn Tournament – AUS v BUL JNRS ??-3
Match 4 – Friendly – AUS v ?? ??-3
Match 5 – Friendly – AUS v ?? ??-3
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