For more than 40 years, the volleyball court at Dante Fascell Park has hosted a group of friends with a weekly tradition of spiking and serving their way to fitness and fun.
“When we come out here to play volleyball we take a break from our routine and joke around and exercise,” said unofficial team captain and cardiologist Dr. Reza Azar. “My son started talking here at the park. He said ‘haser’ which means ‘ready’ in Farsi. He heard it so many times while watching us play; it was his firstword.”
Azar’s son Armin is now 35 and no longer a regular Sunday spectator for the games. Their kids may be grown, their wives may not join them to barbeque as often and the post-game aches and pains may take longer to recover from, but this committed group of 12 weekend athletes will not miss their Sunday volleyball game.
“The shoulder and back pain slowly starts to feel better after I get home,” said Mori Nadjafi. Sounds like a rapid recovery, but for Nadjafi, a psychiatrist, home is in upstate Orlando. “Even though I moved there in 1986, I still try to drive down twice a month to play. These are my very close friends; we joke around, we do some exercise and we can play year-round because of the nice weather. We really have a wonderful time.”
The close knit group of friends of Iranian descent bonded when they met in the late 1960s after moving to Miami.
“When we go on vacation we try not to miss more than one or two Sundays in a row,” said Bob Heyat. “Our wives and children all became friends over the years. We do charity work together, like for the Shake A Leg Foundation, and we get together over the holidays. This is a family affair.”
“I would never give it up because one day a week I get away from my wife and family” said Reza Dehbozorgi to the laughter of the players.
And in classic taunting fashion, Azar responded.
“I don’t know how he showed up here,” he said with mock surprise. “I guess it was because the Mayor was his friend.”
The joke is that when Julio Robaina was Mayor of South Miami, Dehbozorgi made an impassioned plea to him to get a load of sand dropped off at the court. After that, he became a bonafide member of the team. But the conversation got serious quickly during the rainy Sunday team interview when Hurricane Andrew came up. The second thing the men did after checking their families was check the park.
“It was very sad,” said Dr. Hosain Daee. “But we started cleaning up right away and fortunately everything came back to normal quickly.”
The one good thing that came out of Hurricane Andrew was dedicated transportation. As the team winds down the Sunday game day while sipping chamomile tea and munching on cranberry dark chocolates courtesy of Akbar Nikoond, they talk Subaru. Dr. Azar dedicated a vehicle to the game after Andrew.
If you drive around South Miami on a Sunday and spot the unmistakable “Volleyball” vanity plate, follow the hatchback to the park and watch the boys play.