Ashkan Khosravi Interview: Iranian-American Finds a New Home Out West

Ashkan Khosravi will be a senior at UC Riverside next fall. While originally from Iran, Khosravi left home when he would no longer be allowed to play soccer or continue school because he was Baha'i and not Muslim. Khosravi attended high school in Plano, Texas before ending up at UC Riverside, where he has amassed 41 starts over three years. Now entering his last year, Khosravi talks about what the transition was like and what his plans are looking forward.

With the restrictions of being Muslim to play for Iran National Teams, did you notice any tension while you were with the younger age groups?

Yes, obviously it was hard being the only different one. Off the top of my head, the most awkward thing that I remember was when we all had to do the Muslim prayer as a team, which was one of national team rules. I had no idea how to do it nor did I knew any of the words.

Was staying in Iran on the table? Or were you set on leaving?

Staying in Iran was definitely not on the table because not only could I not play for the national team, I also couldn’t play for my club and I knew I couldn’t get an education or go to college.

When I left Iran and went to Turkey as a refugee, I started practicing with a team in Turkey and they wanted me to sign and play with them. I thought about it for a while, but I didn’t really like Turkey and I wanted to come to Dallas where my brother was. He left Iran for the same reasons. He came to the US around 16 years ago to get his education.

What was your time in Turkey like?

I didn’t really like anything about Turkey. It was very tough living there as a refugee; mostly just a whole year and a half of waiting to be able to come to the US. The only thing that I liked about it was the training sessions that I had with the Turkish club. I had never trained in that much snow.

Did your brother play soccer at all?

 Photo from UCR Athletic Communications

Photo from UCR Athletic Communications

No, he never played soccer. His situation was more about not being able to go to college as a Baha’i.

How did your parents play into the move? Were they supportive or reluctant for you to leave?

My parents were actually very supportive about it.

Have your parents gotten a chance to see you play in person? Have they expressed any interest in moving to the US as well?

My parents have seen me play once for UCR. They come and visit every year, but they don't quite want to move here yet.

What is your attitude towards Iran now? Do you miss anything about it?

I obviously love Iran as my country but I hate how I had to leave due to how Iran is ruled. I don’t really know about any changes in Iran other than everything being more expensive. I definitely miss playing in Iran. One of my old teammates, who I played with and against many times, was actually a starter for Iran in the World Cup and got to play against the best player who’s ever played the game (Messi). I was very excited to see him play, but at the same time, there’s always that thought in my mind that maybe that could have been me. Maybe I could have played that game and maybe I could have saved that Messi shot. As unrealistic as it sounds, if I had stayed, there was a possibility and it makes me sad that I left. But it also makes me want to get better and prove myself in the US.

I am personally a huge Messi, Barca, and Argentina fan. So Argentina was my team during the World Cup, but at the same time I was happy about how well Iran defended against them.

If something were to happen in the future where you could play for Iran, would you be interested? Or is that door completely closed?

I honestly don’t know if playing for Iran would be a possibility or not.

What is your citizenship status with the US?

I actually just recently got my American citizenship on April 17th and I am a dual citizen of both Iran and the US.

Last year, UCR struggled at the start of the season but finished strong in conference play. Where did UCR succeed last year and where did they fail? And what happened in the semifinal game vs Cal State Fullerton?

We had a solid team last year despite losing some great players due to injury and ineligibility. It took us a while to get in a rhythm and get used to playing a new formation, which is why we didn’t do too good in non-conference games but did well in conference. We beat the number two team in the nation at the time, UC Irvine, and we won the Big West South Division title.

Things went bad really fast against Fullerton. I picked up a wrist injury about ten days before that game and I missed the last 2 games before the game against Fullerton. Our coach didn’t think I was ready to play that game so I didn’t start but after we lost a man (our center back got a red card) and went down 2-0 in the first 15-20 minutes of the game, I got subbed in and played the rest of the game. But we just couldn’t get back in it.

Is the National Tournament a realistic expectation for this year? What do y’all need to do to reach that goal?

Winning the tournament is definitely an expectation for us this year. We have a much stronger team and we want nothing less than a National Championship this year. And I think as long as we believe in that goal and stay healthy as a team, we will reach that.

 Photo taken by Paul Alvarez

Photo taken by Paul Alvarez

What is something about UCR that you didn't know at first when you got there, but has been a pleasant surprise to experience?

The thing I really liked about UCR, which made me never think about leaving, is how close we are as teammates and brothers. We do everything as a team and our group text is active 24/7.

Five years from now, what's a dream scenario for your playing career?

If I do get drafted [by an MLS club], I would stay in the US and play here. But if I don't, I will most likely go somewhere to play. I have always had a dream of playing for the US National Team and maybe, just maybe, play Iran and face some old teammates. I don’t know how realistic that dream is and if it is even possible for me to play for US, but that has just always been in the back of my mind.