Esteghlal Cultural and Athletic Club (Persian: باشگاه فرهنگي ورزشي استقلال ايران) is an Iranian sports club most widely known for its professional football team based in Tehran. It was founded as Taj (Persian: تاج), meaning "Crown" in Persian and renamed after the Islamic Revoloution in 1979. Founded in 1945, they play in the IPL and have spent almost all of their history in the top tier in Iranian football; they spent one season in Iran"s second division in 1993-1994. The club also had a similarly successful futsal section.
They play their home games at the 100,000 capacity Azadi Stadium in Tehran, and their average home attendance in the past 5 years is 25,000. The club"s traditional kit colours are royal blue shirts, shorts and socks.
Esteghlal have been Asian Champions AFC Champions League 2 times and have also won 6 National Championship titles. Esteghlal together with Al-Hilal Riadh of Saudi Arabia are the second most successful clubs in Asian Champion"s League, after Pohang Steelers of South Korea, with 2 champions titles and 2 runner up
Old Logo of Taj FCOn 26 September 1945, three Iranian military officers Mirzani, Jananpour and Navab started a sports club on Ferdowsi Street, Tehran. Since the founders of the club were mostly interested in cycling, the club"s original name was Docharkheh Savaran (Persian: دوچرخه سواران), meaning "The Cyclists" in Persian. Docharkheh Savaran football club played its first official match in 1946, and in 1947 was able to win the Tehran Hazfi Cup.
Emerging successIn 1949
the club officially changed its name to Taj. The club became the most beloved team in Iran after some years, and won numerous league championships, Hazfi Cups and Asian Club Championships. The club has been successful in recent years and is always a contender for the league championship. In the past few years it has finished 2nd or 3rd in the league, and Amir Ghalenoei was able to get the team its first championship in the IPL in the 2005-06 season after his third and final year as the manager.
1979 Islamic Revolution
After the 1979 Islamic Revoloution in Iran, the club was confiscated by the newly established Islamic government and put under the control of the Physical Education Organization of Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: سازمان تربيت بدني جمهوري اسلامي ايران), a governmental organization, and change its name to Esteghlal (Persian: استقلال), "Independence" in Persian. Taj (Persian: تاج) means "Crown" in Persian; after the revolution, any sign of the previous monarchist regime was not tolerated.
Tehran DerbyMain articles: Tehran Derby
The club"s main rival and its opponent in the Tehran Derby is Persepolis F.C. The first derby match between the clubs took place on April 5, 1968 at Amjadieh Stadium. Today, all derbies and home matches occur at the 100,000 capacity Azadi Stadium which is invariably sold out for the derby . Ali Samereh scored the earliest goal in Tehran derby for Esteghlal F.C. against Persepolis F.C. which came less than a minute into the game. In 1995, IRIFF began to invite foreign referees to officiate the derby to ease fan and player suspicions of referee bias. This occurred after the events of the 38th derby. In the 38th derby (January 11, 1995) Persepolis was leading in the match by a score of 2-0 until the last 10 minutes of the match. Esteghlal scored 2 goals in quick succession, including one which was a penalty. This angered the Persepolis fans and players who felt the referee was biased towards Esteghlal (There was speculation about Esteghlal bribing the referee and the officials). Persepolis fans stormed the field, and fights broke out on the pitch between fans and players. Following this match it was decided that Iranian referees would no longer be used for the derby. After 13 years of foreign referees, the second leg of the 2008-09 season Derby saw an Iranian once again refereeing the game. The game ended a draw with goals coming from Mojtaba Jabari and Maziar Zare.
Over the years, Esteghlal has 18 wins plus 3 unfinished matches decided in favor of Esteghlal by the Football Federation of Iran. Persepolis has won 17 derbies.
AFC Champions LeagueEsteghlal is one of the most successful clubs in Asian Champion"s League with 2 champions titles and 2 runner up finishes, tied with Al-Hilal Riadh Saudi Arabia. .
AFC Champions League 2007
Esteghlal was dropped from the 2007 edition of the Asian Champion"s League after the AFC did not receive the club"s player list for the tournament in time. Despite efforts by the club management to reverse the decision, AFC upheld its decision  and the club"s board resigned soon after .