7/30/2018 5:29:36 PM (GMT+3)

Iran star Jahanbakhsh trains his eyes on 2019 Asian Cup

Iran star Jahanbakhsh trains his eyes on 2019 Asian Cup

TEHRAN, Iran: Having finished last season as the top scorer in the Netherlands' Eredivisie, Alireza Jahanbakhsh is fast establishing himself as a star in Europe.

Last week, Brighton signed him from AZ Alkmaar for what the English Premier League side said was a "club-record" fee.

The Seagulls, however, have not disclosed the amount they paid to Dutch club Alkmaar to bring the 24-year-old to England's south coast on a five-year deal.

Jahanbakhsh made three appearances for Iran at this year's World Cup in Russia and was also the leading scorer in the Netherlands' top-flight Eredivisie last season with 21 goals in 33 games.

Born in Qazvin to the manager of a local bicycle factory and a stay-at-home mother, football was a shared love for the Jahanbakhsh family.

“I come from a really big football family; my uncles, my cousins, they really love football,” 24-year-old told the-afc.com.

“One of the most amazing moments that I still remember is the qualification for 1998, I was five or six years old and the dramatic qualifying of Iran to the World Cup against Australia.

“The country was crazy; everyone was out [in the streets]. It was crazy and people were so happy. My parents, my father, who is crazy about football, and I still remember the people were cheering and dancing in the streets.”

It was that moment that inspired Jahanbakhsh, the second of three children – he has an older sister and younger brother – to take up the sport. But had a school teacher not intervened, Jahanbakhsh may have been lost to football at an early age.

A prodigious talent in multiple sports, Jahanbakhsh was selected for the junior national teams in both handball and futsal.

“I tried different sports,” he explained. “Kung fu and athletics; I played handball for the national team, and I was also selected for the country’s youth futsal team.

“I think when I was 12 we had a sport teacher in the school, he told me I had to find my way, I had to choose between football and futsal. And at that time I would rather play football.”

Like so many of Iran’s footballers, Jahanbakhsh learned his craft playing in the streets with his friends from his local neighbourhood in Qazvin.

“What I really remember about that time was I was in a hurry to finish school and to go and play in the streets with the guys from the neighbourhood,” he recalled.