“Check it out. Goosebumps.” Navid said, showing me his forearm. The black hairs on his arm were standing up as if a stream of electricity went through his veins.
We were driving on the Azadegan expressway in the city of Tehran, and Navid was giving me a little history lesson on Cyrus the Great, while cars and motorcycles equipped with red and blue flags started to appear around us on the neighboring car lanes.
The Azadi Stadium was awaiting, eager to show us the Tehran derby between Esteghal and Persepolis. A match that overcrowds the fifth largest football stadium in the world from its current capacity of 91,000 spectators to a number well over the hundred thousands.
That could only mean one thing: Stadium snacks!
Stadium food is kind of a category on its own. It’s a thing most North Americans can relate to but also something that people around the world are getting more into. I was very eager to see what the Persians preferred to snack on while the biggest match of the year unfolded in front of us.
While waiting in line and talking with curious bystanders about Lionel Messi and why the hell an Argentinian wants to come to Tehran, I took notice of the absence of food stands at the entrance. We were just a bunch of people trying to get in, with guards overlooking us. No options of getting anything while waiting. Downer.
Inside the stadium, the presence of mobile snack vendors was a highlight in an otherwise boring 0-0 game. Me and Navid got some chips and seeds and were shooting the breeze, when I noticed that everyone around us were basically doing the same. The match was more than a social gathering of 90, 000+ friends than an intense, divisive city derby.
When I realized that my feet were covered in sunflower seed shells, half time was approaching, so we decided to walk around the insides of the stadium just before the referee’s whistle. I saw a lot of people at their seats with a few iranian snacks that they had brought to the stadium. Sandwiches and breads for the most part. Oranges and other fruits. Easy to eat, simple food items. We sat on the sunny side of the stadium finishing our bags of chips, enjoying the moment.
As the final whistle blew, the silence that followed and continued down to the street was omnipresent until someone shouted “Hey, Maradona!”. Someone from the queue that were waiting to get in the stadium before the game had recognized me.
I smiled back at him and continued my Tehran experience looking for a place to eat.