Field Work Term, Student News

Soccer for Diplomacy

Benyamin Mohammadzadeh '20 studies Business and Mathematics at Bennington College. A lifelong soccer fan, Mohammadzadeh spent a Field Work Term with FIFCO, the International Corporate Football Federation, where he helped organize the 2019 World Cup in Monaco and secured participation from the Iranian corporate football federation.

Since my childhood, soccer has been an important part of my life. From playing to watching to supporting the local team, I have always been closely engaged in this sport.  

In the summer of 2018, I decided to attend the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and support the Iranian team. I first set this goal when I was 13 and finally I saved enough money to do it. It was very inspiring to see people from all over the globe gathering together for a tournament. I truly felt that soccer—or, in general, any sport—can mean much more than just a game.  

The tournament was a perfect example of how people can gather together and have a great time without any attention to nation, race, or religion. My highlight of the event was meeting so many people and being exposed to different cultures, which was important beyond simply seeing a football match. 

I came to Bennington College from UWC Dilijan, and I decided to shift my career path from business and mathematics to soccer coaching and management. Quickly, I realized that it is very hard to enter this business, so I tried to get involved in any possible way. 

In soccer, there are two separate parts that have to exist in a successful team. One is directly related to matches and the field—such as coaching and playing—and the second part is the administrative business.  

On the surface, a successful team is known by its top stars and coaches, but in reality, the administrative roles is what makes it all possible. Administrators deal with all financial activities of a club, ticketing, marketing, organizing a youth academy, negotiating transfers and travel services, and many other big and small tasks that need to be covered by all clubs.  

I decided to try my chances in both of these fields. At first, I did a coaching course and tried to get connected to notable coaches at higher levels. I was an assistant coach for four months with Lüneburg LSK Hansa in Germany. Then, I tried to use my Plan in Business and Mathematics to get involved in the administrative side of soccer.  

During my research, I talked to many professionals in this field and discovered FIFCO International Corporate Football Federation, based in Montreal, Canada, who hired me for my junior year Field Work Term. FIFCO is the world governing body of corporate football and was founded on four core guiding principles and values:

  • Promote a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise

  • Promote team building

  • Promote networking

  • Promote the amateur game

FIFCO organizes continental tournaments as well as the annual World Corporate Champions Cup. This year’s edition took place from October 25-28, 2019, in Monaco. 

Photo of Mohammadzadeh with FIFCO referees
Benyamin Mohammadzadeh '20 with FIFCO referees
Photo of FIFCO World Cup
FIFCO officials confer during the final match
Photo of two men with soccer jersey
Benyamin Mohammadzadeh '20 with Mohammad Dadgan, former head of the Iranian football federation

Before working with FIFCO, I was not aware of corporate football, but I learned that I really loved the mission it promotes. My responsibilities were to contact different countries and federations and convince them to join FIFCO. I negotiated with a few different countries, and as a result, the Iranian corporate football federation officially joined FIFCO and sent a team to Monaco, the culmination of four months of negotiations. 

This October, I was invited to go to Monaco and help the president of FIFCO with the tournament. The event was a success, and the Iranian team won the World Cup. There were 16 teams from 16 countries, visiting ministers and politicians, and the Cup was a gift from The Prince of Monaco, Albert II. 

Currently, I am officially working with FIFCO as their Business Developer and Membership Coordinator, and we are working on hosting the 2020 Corporate Asian Cup in Kish, Iran. There are several discussions underway on how to bring teams from countries such as the United States or Canada that do not currently have formal diplomatic relationships with Iran. Our goal is to have a positive influence on their relationship through this tournament and show that reality can be very different than what media usually offers. 


By Benyamin Mohammadzadeh '20