WESTMINSTER -- The game of soccer has taken Westminster resident Mahmood Ebrahimzadeh all over the world.
From the 1978 World Cup in Argentina to qualifying round matches in Singapore for the 1980 Moscow Olympics to professional play in Germany and Chicago, the 38-year-old naturalized American citizen and native of Iran has scored goals with the best of them.
Now, Ebrahimzadeh and his family -- wife Jaleh and their two boys, 10-year-old Mike and 3-year-old Marvin -- have found a home in Carroll County.
"I was driving along in my car one day and I liked this place," Ebrahimzadeh said.
That was last July, when the family lived in College Park. A month later, he moved his family to Westminster.
"I like the countryside, the friendly people. It's a nice place to have the kids grow up," he added.
With his playing days behind him, Ebrahimzadeh now wants to spread his knowledge and love of soccer in the community.
He's doing it by opening the county's first-ever all-soccer shop -- Caspian Soccer Pro Shop -- on Green Street in Westminster later this week; conducting soccer clinics throughout the summer; and coaching youths with the Westminster Soccer Association.
"Soccer means everything to me," he said. "Soccer means a job, a hobby, and it's my life. I enjoy sharing it with my family and would like to share it with my neighborhood.
"I see a lot of potential here. The kids need support from their parents, coaches and recreation departments. They need to work on the basic skills of the game."
The soccer shop will have everything a player needs, featuring the latest gear produced under the most popular brand names.
"I wanted to buy some shorts and a jersey for my son and couldn't find what I was looking for," Ebrahimzadeh said.
"Before, you had to go to Baltimore or Columbia to find what you need. Soccer is growing up here and needs a store, so I decided to make a living out of it. I want to have fun with the kids and save people the trouble of having to go all the way to Baltimore or Columbia to get what they need."
He's also conducting four one-week clinics, the first beginning tomorrow, and a special goalkeepers clinic this summer for boys and girls ages 8 to 16. He said the Westminster Recreation
Council, and Carol Donovan in particular, have done a lot in helping him get the clinics started.
He would like to see Carroll club teams formed in a number of age groups to compete against teams outside the county. Soccer's popularity has grown immensely in the past few years in Carroll but, unlike his childhood days in Iran where it was pretty much the only sport played, the game still has to contend with other sports such as lacrosse, baseball, softball, basketball and football.
"I think you have to show respect for the interest people show in other sports. You see basketball, baseball and football all over the sports pages and on the local television and radio. I would like to see soccer have the same importance as the others."
Ebrahimzadeh began playing the game with his neighborhood friends at age 8 and first played on a youth select team at 14 -- the first time he was ever coached.
He turned pro in 1972 at the age of 18 and played on the national team in Iran at 22. From there, he went on to Germany in 1982 and played on a number of professional German club teams before finishing out his playing career in the United States with the Chicago Sting of the Major Soccer League in 1986.
Perhaps his most memorable moment on the field took place in Singapore in 1979. Iran was playing China in a qualifying match for the Moscow Olympics.
With the team trailing 2-1 late in the second half, Ebrahimzadeh found China's goalie out of position and sent a volley that found its way in the back of the net for the game-tying goal.
"There were around 130,000 fans . . . I just stood in front of them after and enjoyed it. Scoring a goal is the happiest time in soccer," he said.