Inside the Push to Get All 32 World Cup Teams on Twitter

Saudi's Al-Hilal player Ahmad Al Fraidi, left, challenges Iran's player Hossein Mahini during their AFC champions league semifinal match second leg at King Fahd Stadium in the Capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 20, 2010.

Three soccer players from Iran's World Cup team joined Twitter and obtained verified accounts on Thursday, which might not sound like big news until you remember that Iran has a strange relationship with Twitter — it's been blocked in the country since 2009.
So how did this happen? The whole initiative, as it turns out, came from Twitter itself,Mashable has learned. Around two weeks ago, Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., was talking to some friends on the Twitter media team, when one of them mentioned that among the World Cup teams, only Iran didn't have verified players on the microblogging platform.

Mortazavi's friend said that Twitter wanted to have all teams represented, but couldn't reach out to any Iranian player, Mortazavi tells Mashable. That's how she started acting as sort of an intermediary, trying to figure out if any Iranian player already had an account.
On Wednesday night, Mortazavi, along with the help of her friend Nasim Mohammadi, a big soccer fan, found out that Hossein Mahini, a defender playing for the Persepolis team in Iran, actually had a Twitter account.
Until then, Mahini had only posted a couple of tweets. Mortazavi and Mohammadi then reached out to him on Thursday and convinced him to get two more players, Sardar Azmou and Mohammad Reza Khalatbari, to join the microblogging network. Mahini helped them set up accounts and get started, Mortazavi tells Mashable.
Mahini told Mashable that he joined Twitter because "the people of Iran and our fans like to know what we are doing while [in Brazil]. I want to create an atmosphere for people to know more about what we do for them."
Later in the day, Twitter's co-founder Jack Dorsey celebrated the news of the players joining, welcoming Mahini to Twitter.

At the same time, coincidentally, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Vienna, Austria, for the Iran nuclear deal talks, so he visited the players' training camp outside the city. Zarif met with the team and Mahini even tweeted a picture of the official with some other teammates.

Zarif, who is one of the few Iranian officials to have Twitter and Facebook accounts, later shared some pictures of himself with the Iranian team on his accounts.

On Friday, Twitter welcomed the players and celebrated the fact that, finally, all teams have representatives on the site.

Now that three players are on Twitter and are verified, says Mohammadi, the fans will be able to follow them and feel closer to the team throughout the World Cup.
"Most of Twitter users in Iran follow the people who are are verified and since it's a month before World Cup, I think Iranian Twitter users will really love it that their football players are on Twitter," Mohammadi says, before adding: "I asked them to put pictures and selfies."
Mahini already took her advice, and told Mashable that he plans on being more active during the World Cup in Brazil.
"It will help me get closer to my fans," he said. "And people who like to know about our work can do it easier through Twitter. And I will be able to find good friends across the world."

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