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AC Milan legends give Iranian soccer fans a boost

updated 2:33 PM EST, Thu November 28, 2013
Iranian supporters of AC Milan welcome former players of the Italian soccer club for a charity match at Tehran's Azadi stadium. Iranian supporters of AC Milan welcome former players of the Italian soccer club for a charity match at Tehran's Azadi stadium.
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Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
Milan veterans visit Tehran
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iranian soccer fans welcome AC Milan to Tehran for charity match against Persepolis
  • The game is part of a collaboration between the two clubs, giants in Europe and Asia
  • Persepolis hoping to learn from Milan's highly-regarded youth academy
  • Milan's team of former stars beat their counterparts 3-1 in front of 65,000 crowd

(CNN) -- As Iran's relations with the Western world seem to be thawing following a historic U.S. agreement over its nuclear production, sport is also doing its part to bring Tehran in from the cold.

AC Milan, the world's most successful soccer club in terms of trophies won, sent a team stacked full of its former stars to take part in a charity match against counterparts from Persepolis FC.

Thursday's game, watched by 65,000 fans in Persepolis' Azadi Stadium, was won 3-1 by the seven-time European champion.

But as Iran's nuclear deal will help lift some of the economic sanctions that have hurt its growth, this exhibition has bigger meaning for Persepolis and the development of Iranian football.

It is part of a collaboration that began at the end of last year when Persepolis president Mohammad Rouyanian visited Italy to meet with Milan chief executive and V.P. Adriano Galliani.

Milan's website reports that the "Rossoneri" ("black and reds") will be sharing knowledge of the club's successful youth academy with Persepolis -- which is Iran's most successful team and one of the most popular in Asia.

"Mohammad Rouyanian expressed his admiration for the way that the club and its proprietor made Milan the most decorated in the world," the website said. "The desire to create and develop a form of collaboration between the two clubs came naturally.

"Collaboration is already underway that will see the Milan Academy help to export and replicate the Milan Model with Persepolis, which celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year."

Legendary defender Paolo Maldini headed a star-studded Milan lineup at the 100,000-capacity Azadi Stadium for a match that marked the last Persepolis appearance for former Iran captain Mehdi Mahdavikia.

Mahdavikia, 36, retired this year following a distinguished career in which he appeared at two World Cups -- representing his country 111 times in all -- and spent eight seasons with German club Hamburg.

The Milan team also included another of Italy's defensive greats, Franco Baresi, and his fellow World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso.

Its goals came from Daniele Massaro -- part of Italy's 1982 World Cup-winning squad -- Christian Lantignotti and Stefano Eranio, while Alireza Emamifar scored for Persepolis.

"Thank you to @acmilan glorie for coming to Iran and putting a smile on the Iranian AC Milan fans :)" one supporter wrote on Twitter.

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