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Hassan Nazari on Iran’s Performance at the Asian Cup

8/2/2007
Kaveh Mahjoob, lastkick.com

Hassan Nazari

In the mid. and late 1970’s, Hassan Nazari was Iran’s right defensive back. Nazari began his playing days in his hometown club of Sepah of Abadaan. Nazari was the Capitan of Iran’s youth team and at the age of 19 was invited to the national team. He made his mark in Iran’s football by being a part of the 1976 Asian Cup championship team and played in Iran’s first world cup in 1978. 1976 was the last time Iran won the Asian Cup.

Nazari played his club games at Esteghlal (formerly known as Taj) and ended his playing career in UAE and Qatar. These days, Nazari manages his own soccer club and academy in Dallas, Texas. Dallas Texans Soccer Club trains and educates children and teenagers from 7 to 19 years old.

Subsequent to Iran’s elimination of the 2007 Asian Cup, I had an opportunity to speak to Hassan Nazari. He is direct, caring about Iran and Iran’s football.

Kaveh – Did you get a chance to watch any of Iran’s matches during the 2007 Asian Cup?

Nazari – Yes I saw a few of the games.

Kaveh – How did you find the quality of Iran’s play?

Nazari – The team did not play well. Iran played conservatively and frankly at times boring. It felt like team’s tactic was “not to lose” first and then “try to win.”

Team Melli in 1997 - Standing from right: Mohammad Reza Adelkhani, Nasrollah Abdollahi, Ghafour Jahani, Nasser Hejazi, Hossein Kazerouni. Sitting from right: Ebrahim Qassem-pour, Andranik Eskandarian, Mohammad Sadeqi, Ali Parvin, Hassan Roshan, Hassan Nazari.

Hassan Nazari is seated on the left in this 1977 picture of Team Melli.

Kaveh – How different was this team from the one that played in the 2006 World Cup?

Nazari – When I was watching Iran’s 2006 team or this year’s, I thought about how this team compares to our 1978 World Cup team. Look around the world in Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and even the U.S. Football has advanced significantly in these twenty nine years. The speed of the game has changed drastically. Science is now a big part of the game. While most of the world’s football has advanced, it is hard to see how much better football has gotten in these twenty nine years and how Iran’s football HAS NOT. That was a real surprise for me.

Offensively, back then (1978), we had a great creative player in Hassan Roshan. Right behind him we had the amazing Ali Parvin. I didn’t see such players in last year or this year’s teams. Having said that, I think Iran played a more organized football in 2006 compared to this year’s Asian Cup version. With all these great players that Iran has, one wonders why as a team they play so poorly.

Kaveh – We had 8 or 9 foreign based players in each game. Why do you think they were so out of synch and played poorly?

Nazari – You can’t judge the performance of these players in isolation. In Europe, they have great players playing next to them. Those players make our players perform better on the field. Then look at the culture of the game that is played in Europe vs. in Iran. These players fly home after a full season of playing in clubs where professional culture rules and the science of coaching trains. Then in Tehran they have to change all mentalities and culture and adjust themselves in days. We bring Ali Karimi from Bundesliga and in a few days we want him to first adjust how he trains and plays and then put him in a new position. I feel for these players.

Kaveh – We are not the only ones in such situations. Japanese, Koreans and even Chinese players nowadays are in the same situation. What is the solution?

Nazari – If our national team is based on Iran’s league and Iranian based players, then appointing a head coach with such experience makes sense. If we plan to bring stars whom play for big clubs and big coaches in Europe and put a team together that has a large number of such players, then we have to use a foreign reputable coach who has the right experience and background to work with this team.

We bring players from Series A, Bundesliga and EPL and then place a coach who has only experienced Iran’s league and then we expect results. This does not work. We need to have a head coach who has the matching education and science with the players who spend months playing for such coaches. These are technical issues.

You don’t see Brazil bring coaches from Europe because Brazilian style of play is very different than European’s. The culture of the game is very important in football.

Kaveh – Well most of the Brazilian national team is also based on their European based players.

Nazari – Well here there is a different approach by countries like Brazil. They play many more friendly matches than we do; however, to help their players with travel time and changes of time zone, most of these friendly matches are played in Europe. As a result, the Brazilian stars get to play next to each other as a team a lot more than us. They become a team.

What do we do? We bring players back to Tehran and play against Kuwait or UAE or Jamaica. These types of friendly matches have no value. These games provide no real preparation for any tournament. We need to play strong teams and not be afraid of results. I have to assume our federation understands these issues. Maybe none of these strong teams would be willing to play Iran but it is up to us to solve this problem. We know it is an issue but yet we don’t have a solution for it.

Kaveh – How about coaching of the national team?

Nazari – Let me state that I don’t know Mr. Ghalenoi well and I have been far enough from Iran that don’t feel comfortable judge him as a coach. I however can judge how the team performed in the Asian Cup. We need to become competitive. To play Germany, Poland and Portugal in the world cup, you need to play similar countries in friendly matches for the years leading to the world cup. You would also need such coach. We just can’t put a coach who understands Iran’s league but is not familiar with world’s football as the head coach.

Kaveh – What type of coaching education do you have?

Nazari – I have the “A” license which is the highest certificate. I have been trained at PSV Eindhoven, Ajax, AC Milan, in Germany, in England and Brazil. These coaching education training sessions have been anywhere from two weeks to six weeks. The coaching education is a never ending process. You have to constantly learn and experiment. You can’t just go to one class and think it is enough.

Hassan Nazari (1970s)

Kaveh – Let’s go to 1976 when Iran won her last Asian Cup. What are some of your memories?

Nazari – I have great memories. It is a true honor to wear the national team jersey and it is very difficult to express the emotions I had then and even have now when I think about those days. I went to the national team at a young age (19).

Kaveh – Heshmat Mohajerani was the head coach. How do you remember him as a coach?

Nazari – I was very young then and did not really appreciate how good Mohajerani was. He understood psychology and knew how to work with each of the players and was a master in putting the team together and arranging the team for a match. We would have done anything on the field for Mohajerani. He was that good. His teams played organized matches and in every game our goal was to win. We never entered a match thinking “not to lose” first or play conservatively.

Mohajerani also allowed each player to have the freedom to move around as needed. Creative players like Parvin, Ghasempour or Rohsan played well in Moahjerani’s system because he did not box them on the field and did not limit them. As an example, I was playing the right defensive back position and I used to attack on the right wing. Mohajerani never stopped me from doing so. Additionally, all the players liked and respected each other.

Kaveh – What was Mohajerani’s most important success factor?

Nazari – First, he knew which players could play well next to each other. Second, he created a great atmosphere within the team that fostered friendship. Third, even in an organized system, allowed players’ creativity. We played beautiful matches. I didn’t see such performance in the World Cup (2006) or the Asian Cup (2007). I felt like the players did not have the freedom to move around.

Kaveh – Are you in touch with any of your old colleagues?

Nazari – With a few. I have been at times in touch with Roshan (Hassan), Sharafi (Asghar) and Mohajerani (Heshmat).

Kaveh – If there was an opportunity for you to work in Iran would you welcome that?

Nazari – I would love to. I am very interested but I will not knock on people’s doors. It will be an honor to work in Iran. I have received everything I have from those fans and my country.

Kaveh – Your club is a youth’s football academy. Have any of your students made it to the bigger clubs?

Nazari – Nine of them play for MLS. One plays for the U.S. national team. Another one plays in Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven.

Kaveh – Iran failed in the world cup, in the Asian cup, didn’t qualify for Olympics, in the Asian Games and has not done well in youth level. How do you change things?

Nazari – If the events you listed above do not wake our football management, what would? It is not good enough just to like the game. We need to turn to the science of football. If you go to a surgery room every day, you would not become a surgeon.

Kaveh – Thank you for your time and your flexibility with this interview.

Nazari – You are very welcome.

Kaveh Mahjoob may be contacted at Kaveh_Mahjoob@hotmail.com

 
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12 Comments  comments 

12 Responses

  1. Here is the list of the rest of the players in the photo:

    Standing from right: Mohammad Reza Adelkhani, Nasrollah Abdollahi, Ghafour Jahani, Nasser Hejazi, Hossein Kazerouni.

    Sitting from right: Ebrahim Qassem-pour, Andranik Eskandarian, Mohammad Sadeqi, Ali Parvin, Hassan Roshan, Hassan Nazari.

  2. gholi

    Someone remind Mr. Nazari that Mr. Mohajerani was the Iranian coach in 1978 World Cup. If I remember correctly we were as disastrous as in 2006. Finished with one point then just like last year , we were trounced by Holland and Peru,. Just like Portugal and Mexico.

  3. Gholi jAn, it is true that in 1978 we ended up with only one point as well. But it is important that we consider the times.

    During the 1970s Iranian football was 100% armature. These players had to work during the day at their regular jobs and then go to practice sessions after work. They could not make a living out of football. Our European and South American opponents that year on the other hand were all professionals.

    Also, our only European legionnaire was Mohammad Reza Adelkhani who played in Germany (2nd division I believe).

    1978 was the very first time Iran made it to the WC as you already know, so there was a lot of pressure on these guys.

    Finally, I remember the games. I can tell you that we played much more competitive against Scotland (as compared to the game vs. Angola in 2006).

    Against Peru we went out attacking, and ended up losing 4-1. But that Peruvian team was one of the best teams that South America has ever produced outside of Brazil and Argentina of course. Hassan Rowshan was badly injured, but decided to play and had a very good game until he had to be carried out after a foul.

    Against Holland (which ended up losing to Argentina in the final), we were just out gunned. They were a fantastic team that year.

    Here is something I wrote for Iran World Cup Blog in summer of 2006. I think you will find the video clip interesting.

    http://iran.worldcupblog.org/group-d/a-short-clip-on-iranian-footballs-history.html

  4. Kaveh

    Dear Gholi,
    Thanks for your note.

    1978 was the first time Iran ever participated in the world cup. Back then, only one country from the entire Asia/Oceania qualified and it was very sweet to just get qualified.

    In the first match against Holland, Iranian players were generally nervous to be next to these famous players but quickly had an amazing chance to score a goal (Ghafoor Jahani I believe) and missed it. The result was 3 – 0 but two of the goals were from the penalty spots. That was actually an amazing result for such young team (experience wise) as well as age. Holland went on to become the finalists and should have won the Cup.

    Against Scotland, we tied 1-1 with one of the best Scottish teams of all times (Scotland claim not mine)where we scored a goal against ourselves. Then, we had to play Peru. We had to win by 3 goals and therefore Iran went all out to win and attacked and attacked. Peru was a tough team and using counterattacks, they defeated us 4-1.

    The point is, for the very first experience ever on such world stage, among top 16, that team did well. Hejazi was amazing. Eskandarian ended up in the famous Cosmos…….Every thing has to be seen with perspective. For then, that team did well.

    Lastly, Mr. Nazari has very interesting point of views on the coaching of the national team. I would be interested to see how all feel about them.
    Ba Sepas,
    Kaveh

  5. Kaveh

    Afshin jon,
    You and I were posting at the same time and amazing close in views. I had not seen your response when I wrote mine.
    Kaveh

  6. LOL! Kaveh jAn, I think we both are giving our age away here, but being old enough to see those games live in 1978 has something to do with why our responses are similiar :)

    I’ll never forget how Faraki missed that early opportunity against Holand :)

  7. Kaivan

    Dear Kaveh & Afshin,

    I only wanted to take this opportunity to thank you both for shedding some lights on world cup 1978. At that time I was too small to remember much. It was nice to have read some flash backs and good ones I might add for a change about our National Team.

    In the recent past all you hear about TM and the IFF is negative and disheartening staff (and I do not think much will change while we have the current regime ruling over our beloved Iran).

    It is also good to know that Iran was the 1st ever team in the region to make it to WC and as I read in those times there were only 16 teams present in WC.

    If and only if we did not have the disaster that have over shadowed Iran for past 29 years or so, not only our Football would have been amongst the best in the world, other aspects and areas would have flourished and advanced also.

    Well hopefully one day Iran might also get there. (I just hope it is within my life time)

    Once again thank you.

    Best regards,

    Kaivan

  8. Behrad

    kaveh, Afshin,

    Looks like I am in a similar age group as the two of you as I remember Iran’s games in the 78 WC vividly. Iran’s games started after midnight Tehran time, but that was no concern and the excitement of the WC kept all the fans up late hooked up to the TV. After qualifying with relative ease (except against Korea), the results were disappointing to us, but I guess with the non-professional state of football at the time, the team did ok. Hejazi, Roshan (despite injury), Ghasempour and Danayee Fard were among our best performers, while Ghafour Jahani and Faraki were simply outperformed by other team’s defenders and midfielder. As you stated, that was Iran’s first qualification and that by itself was a happy event . After the WC, many were taking about bringing a more qualified foreign coach so we could qualify for and perform better in the next WC, however, the state of the country changed and that idea did not materialize till years later (meaning having a foreign head coach, whether we have ever had a qualified coach in open to debate).

  9. Behrad

    I would have to admit that there have been qualified foreign coaches leading our team in the past, (Ivic is a good example), but they were not given enough time or opportunity to do the needed work. His preparation during his brief time with our team prior to the WC (If my recollection is correct, playing against teams like Croatia, AS Roma) proved beneficial when we later played Yugoslavia, and USA in the WC.

  10. I think a qualified foreign coach at every age group (e.g. U16, U19, U20, U23, and Senior side) is necessary, but they can help Iranian football if and only if the managment support is there.

    Ivic got fired because managment could not stand the pressure.

    Blazovic had the support and did some good things but left too soon. Branco was not fully qualified, but he did well until that dreaded trip to England, and the defeat against QPR.

  11. Behrad

    So, you feel that Branko’s undoing was mainly the infamous result against QPR rather than those in the WC? Logically, results in preparation matches should not count highly, yet for a national team with aspirations to go to the second round in the WC, loosing against a second rated team outside the premier league may have said a lot about the quality and state of our team.

  12. Behrad jAn, I am saying that the loss to QPR was a turning point. After that the team went south.

    Branko was NOT qualified to coach Iran in the WC, but it is unfair to dismiss some of the good things that he did. For example winning the Asian Games with a group of young and unknown players in 2000 was a big achievement. A few of those players became big names in Iranian football (e.g. Mirzapour, Mobali, Navidkia, kaebi, etc.).

    I think IFF should have hired a big name coach after we qualified for the WC. That sounds unfair to Branko who coached TM through qualifying matches, but I thin it would have been better for TM.

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