When Iran's star centre-forward Ali Daei was dropped from the national side last year, a Toronto-based website launched a worldwide appeal for the striker to be re-instated. A subsequent petition raised hundreds of cyber-space signatories and Daei, now likely to move to Bayern Munich after the World Cup, was recalled. The depth of feeling shown by the internet campaign prompted one Teheran newspaper to trumpet the headline: 'Iranian football supporters are everywhere: Brazil, South Africa, Australia and even Papua New Guinea!' Now it seems that the sleepy rural town of Yssingeaux, 30 kilometres south of St Etienne, can be added to the list. Ever since the pretty town in the Haute Loire region was chosen by the Iranians as their base camp last December, local inhabitants have not known what to expect. Scare stories claiming that women in the town would have to don Islamic veils for the duration of the team's stay only added to the confusion. Since their arrival, the town has welcomed the team with open arms. 'We love them,' said one veil-less woman when asked for her thoughts on the Iranian presence in her home town. 'We're honoured to have them here.' There are an estimated 500,000 Iranians in Europe, and more than a few of them are expected to descend on Yssingeaux during their team's campaign. On Sunday, close to 200 fans were at St Etienne airport to greet the side as they arrived. The scale of the welcome took the Iranians by surprise. 'If there are this many fans at our matches we won't have to worry about having enough support,' said Iran's veteran defender Mohammed Khakpour. Home for Iran, whose Group F opponents are Yugoslavia, America and Germany, is the picturesque Chateau de Montbarnier, which is one of France's centres of culinary excellence, the Ecole Nationale Superierieure de la Patisserie. The Chateau's role as a pastry school has prompted cruel jokes about the Iranian defence crumbling like a croissant, but, with the support of their new-found fans, Iran could prove their critics wrong.