Kaveh Mahjoob, lastkick.com
In the mid. and late 1970â€™s, Hassan Nazari was Iranâ€™s right defensive back. Nazari began his playing days in his hometown club of Sepah of Abadaan. Nazari was the Capitan of Iranâ€™s youth team and at the age of 19 was invited to the national team. He made his mark in Iranâ€™s football by being a part of the 1976 Asian Cup championship team and played in Iranâ€™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 Iranâ€™s elimination of the 2007 Asian Cup, I had an opportunity to speak to Hassan Nazari. He is direct, caring about Iran and Iranâ€™s football.
Kaveh â€“ Did you get a chance to watch any of Iranâ€™s matches during the 2007 Asian Cup?
Nazari â€“ Yes I saw a few of the games.
Kaveh â€“ How did you find the quality of Iranâ€™s play?
Nazari â€“ The team did not play well. Iran played conservatively and frankly at times boring. It felt like teamâ€™s tactic was â€œnot to loseâ€ first and then â€œtry to win.â€
Kaveh â€“ How different was this team from the one that played in the 2006 World Cup?
Nazari â€“ When I was watching Iranâ€™s 2006 team or this yearâ€™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 worldâ€™s football has advanced, it is hard to see how much better football has gotten in these twenty nine years and how Iranâ€™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 didnâ€™t see such players in last year or this yearâ€™s teams. Having said that, I think Iran played a more organized football in 2006 compared to this yearâ€™s Asian Cup version. With all these great players that Iran has, one wonders why as a team they play so poorly.
Kaveh â€“ 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 â€“ You canâ€™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 â€“ 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 â€“ If our national team is based on Iranâ€™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 Iranâ€™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 donâ€™t see Brazil bring coaches from Europe because Brazilian style of play is very different than Europeanâ€™s. The culture of the game is very important in football.
Kaveh â€“ Well most of the Brazilian national team is also based on their European based players.
Nazari â€“ 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 donâ€™t have a solution for it.
Kaveh â€“ How about coaching of the national team?
Nazari â€“ Let me state that I donâ€™t know Mr. Ghalenoi well and I have been far enough from Iran that donâ€™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 canâ€™t put a coach who understands Iranâ€™s league but is not familiar with worldâ€™s football as the head coach.
Kaveh â€“ What type of coaching education do you have?
Nazari â€“ I have the â€œAâ€ 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 canâ€™t just go to one class and think it is enough.
Kaveh â€“ Letâ€™s go to 1976 when Iran won her last Asian Cup. What are some of your memories?
Nazari â€“ 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 â€“ Heshmat Mohajerani was the head coach. How do you remember him as a coach?
Nazari â€“ 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 â€œnot to loseâ€ 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 Moahjeraniâ€™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 â€“ What was Mohajeraniâ€™s most important success factor?
Nazari â€“ 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 playersâ€™ creativity. We played beautiful matches. I didnâ€™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 â€“ Are you in touch with any of your old colleagues?
Nazari â€“ With a few. I have been at times in touch with Roshan (Hassan), Sharafi (Asghar) and Mohajerani (Heshmat).
Kaveh â€“ If there was an opportunity for you to work in Iran would you welcome that?
Nazari â€“ I would love to. I am very interested but I will not knock on peopleâ€™s doors. It will be an honor to work in Iran. I have received everything I have from those fans and my country.
Kaveh â€“ Your club is a youthâ€™s football academy. Have any of your students made it to the bigger clubs?
Nazari â€“ Nine of them play for MLS. One plays for the U.S. national team. Another one plays in Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven.
Kaveh â€“ Iran failed in the world cup, in the Asian cup, didnâ€™t qualify for Olympics, in the Asian Games and has not done well in youth level. How do you change things?
Nazari â€“ 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 â€“ Thank you for your time and your flexibility with this interview.
Nazari â€“ You are very welcome.
Kaveh Mahjoob may be contacted at Kaveh_Mahjoob@hotmail.com