Mir Mehdi Varzandeh and the introduction of modern physical education in Iran1

H. E. Chehabi

Following the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, physical education appeared on the agenda of Iranian reformers, who began arguing that the nation could be revitalized only if its citizens became healthier, for which purpose they had to be encouraged to exercise more. But it took the state almost three decades before it showed an active and sustained interest in physical education and sports, for it was only in 1934 that the National Physical Education Association (Anjoman-e melli-ye tarbiyat-e badani) was founded and placed under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It is a sad irony that it was precisely as a result of this initiative that the man who had done most to acquaint Iranians with modern physical education and Western athletic disciplines withdrew from public service. This man was Mir Mehdi Varzandeh (1880-1982), often called the “father of modern sports” in Iran.

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