By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
Once a ball boy for the San Jose Earthquakes, LAFC’s defender Steven Beitashour is thankful to now be a part of a club in his home state that continuously supports him not only as a player, but also supports his connection to his Iranian heritage.
The San Jose native dreamed of becoming a soccer player after his father – a former San Francisco State University player – introduced him to the game and took him to his first practice at four years old.
Beitashour, born to Iranian parents, is an Iranian international and strongly identifies with his heritage. While there have been a handful of Iranian players in MLS over the history of the league, Beitashour has had the longest and most successful career to date, winning the MLS Cup with Toronto FC in 2017, and the Supporters’ Shield with San Jose in 2012. Additionally, he played in the 2014 World Cup with the Iranian National Football Team and made an appearance at the 2012 MLS All-Stars.
In 2010, Beitashour received the opportunity to play for his childhood team – after the Quakes selected him in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. His family supported him fully by attending all his games.
He would go on to spend three years with the Quakes before being traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2014. Following a short stint in British Columbia, Steven was then traded to Toronto FC in 2015 for two years, before having the chance to return to his home state as a free agent.
“LAFC seemed the best fit as far as the coach. I think Bob Bradley is one of the best coaches, in not only the U.S., but the world. LAFC had a lot of promise by how they were creating this club with the stadium, the fans, the name, the logo, etc., it seemed they were doing it right. Being from California, I had a lot of other offers, so it wasn’t an easy decision. But it made the decision a little easier.”
On January 24, 2018, the 32-year-old defender signed with the Los Angeles Football Club. Beitashour hit two major career milestones during his first year with the expansion club:
- Beitashour made his 200th start in the 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew SC on June 23rd, becoming the 100th MLS player in league history to reach the mark.
- Beitashour also started in all 30 of his MLS Regular Season appearances, his sixth season surpassing the 2000 minute mark.
Since then, Beitashour has been fortunate to find a club that not only supports him as a player but highly respects his Iranian heritage.
“[There’s] a huge soccer culture in the Iranian culture. If you ask them, ‘what is your favorite sport?’ I think 99% of them would say soccer. […] So the fact that you can bring awareness that there is an Iranian-American player playing in the MLS – in their own backyard. I think a lot of them stick well to it and are LAFC fans.”
There is a significant population of Iranians and Iranian-Americans in and around Los Angeles, with some estimates stating there are between 300,000 and half a million people of Iranian heritage residing in the greater Los Angeles area. It is considered to be the largest group of Iranians outside of Iran in the world.
“There are a lot of young kids that are in a similar position where they’re Iranian-American – they want to play for the MLS, they want to play for the Iranian National Team and they look at my story for hope and belief.”
LAFC have been groundbreakers in cultural acceptance by recognizing and respecting each player’s background. Omar Gaber, former defender and Egyptian native kicked off the tradition last year of having the first player t-shirt in Arabic before departing the club in July of 2018.
Last October, the LAFC released the first Farsi t-shirt in MLS history; a shirt in black-and-gold, that reads: ‘Los Angeles Football Club’ to show solidarity with the defender.
“I think they’re taking advantage of the fact that’s there so many Iranians, Persians, in the greater Los Angeles area. And the fact they support me in that way, and they show that they support all their players. Not just me. [It] really speaks volumes of the club and how they’re doing things,” Beitashour continues. “LA has a lot of different cultures [and] ethnicities here. Soccer is the world game. So anytime you can get into those areas; it’s really smart and beneficial for both the club and the player.”
In addition to having personalized player apparel added to LAFC HQ’s cultural collection, alongside Lee Nguyen’s player tee in Vietnamese, Beitashour had the opportunity to share his culture through food on an episode of “Taste of LAFC” hosted by Max Bretos. He took LAFC’s play-by-play announcer to Shamshiri Grill just outside of Westwood to enjoy a traditional Persian meal while discussing his experiences with the club.
Off the field, the new father balances spending time with his family, filming his “Beita Time” series on LAFC’s youtube channel, and recording episodes of the ‘Back-To-Back’ podcast with fellow teammate Jordan Harvey.
LAFC continues to be a trailblazer in MLS by displaying player support on both personal and athletic levels. And Steven Beitashour is proof of that.
Featured Image: Daisy Jimenez
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