Ali Karimi has for long been the inspirational pivot of the Iranian national team and the former AFC Player of the Year is known to speak his mind on matters concerning the trade he plies.
www.the-afc.com staff writer Chetan Kulkarni engages the recuperating Iranian pin-up in an interesting chat and finds out that Karimi, true to his reputation, doesnâ€™t hesitate to hold forth on seemingly delicate topics like the lack of tough warm-ups for Iran before the World Cup, coach Branko Ivankovicâ€™s critics and his own injury woes, among others.
Q. You suffered a bad ankle injury some time back. What is the status of your injury now?
A. I am undergoing physiotherapy since the last 10 days and at the moment everything is ok. I hope to start training in one week but am praying that this injury doesn’t impact on my preparation for the World Cup.
Q. Iran has not been able to line up friendlies against strong teams so far. Do you think warm-ups against the likes of Ghana and Uruguay is the correct way to build up to the FIFA World Cup?
A. This (Iran) team gives its best in all the matches it plays and in modern football there are no bad teams. But perhaps we need one or two tougher games before the World Cup for better preparation.
Q. You and your other Iranian teammates are playing in the Bundesliga. Do you think this gives you an edge in the FIFA World Cup which is being held in Germany?
A. Only four of our players are in the Bundesliga, so only a piece of the team. But, of course, for us it is a big help to know the stadiums, the nice people and the atmosphere.
Q. What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses?
A. I think we have excellent team spirit and an experienced technical team. But I cannot speak about our weaknesses. We are trying to work hard on them so that there are no weaknesses left by the time we reach the World Cup.
Q. How do you rate the other teams in your group?
A. We are in a tough group with Mexico and Portugal as favourites. But the game against Angola will also be tough. All teams are good in the World Cup.
Q. Any predictions?
A. In football, you cannot make predictions and that is why so many people love this game. Anything is possible.
Q. Who will be the key players in the Iran team?
A. In modern football you need 11 good players, so teamwork is important, not only a few players.
Q. The Iranian media has for a long time critised coach Branko Ivankovic and his tactics. Do you think this is fair?
A. Each coach has his own individual style and so he has to live with the critics.
Q. What do you have to say on calls from some quarters to ban Iran from the World Cup due to the nuclear standoff.
A. I cannot answer political questions. I can only say that we have come to the World Cup after a tough qualification phase.
Q. Your contract has been renewed by Bayern Munich. Are you happy?
A. I do not think of my contract. I am only working at the moment on my comeback.