Kaveh Mahjoob, footballmedia.net
On Friday, August 3rd, Afshin Ghotbi signed with Perspolis. This news was expected and in works for some time. Ghotbiâ€™s negotiations with Perspolis has been discussed and speculated for many weeks and today it became official.
Ghotbiâ€™s signed a one year contract with Perspolis and is expected to travel to Iran next week. Twenty eight years after leaving Iran as the young teenager, Ghtobi is returning to his homeland as the head coach of the REDs.
Yesterday, August 2nd, before the signing, I spoke to Afshin. As always, we covered different topics but Perspolis was on top of the list. Between the lines, you can find Afshinâ€™s confidence that he would be able to steer the most popular Iranian team through the troubled waters involving the vast number of Perspolisi fans, former players, experts and media.
Kaveh – since your name was mentioned as the candidate for the Perspolis â€™ head coaching position, you are quoted, talked about and mentioned daily in all sports papers. Are you aware of this and how do you feel about it?
Afshin – It is flattering, but it is all part of the job.
Kaveh – What are your top three reasons to consider working at Perspolis?
Afshin – I love new challenges!!! Working in Iranian Football, the Passion and history around the club & in Iranian football, and the quality of the players are a few of the reasons.
Kaveh – What are your top three concerns about working at Perspolis?
Afshin – I have none at this momentâ€¦
Kaveh â€“ The current Perspolis team has been put together by Hamid Estili and other assistant coaches. The club has not been that active in signing players and has lost some key players. Doesnâ€™t it concern you that you are walking into a condition that the players were not your picks but you would be judged based on their performance?
Afshin – Those are the conditions, and I have to make the most of the situation. At the end of the day, I will be responsible as the head coach.
Kaveh – Some believe that if you donâ€™t get good results in the first 5 matches with Perspolis, you will be fired from the club. How does it feel to be prejudged so much before even signing a contract?
Afshin – The expectations are high at the top level, and I thrive on the pressure associated with it. I welcome the challenge and will do my best to reach the objectives on winning the championship with Perspolis.
Kaveh – It was reported that Nosrati was signed by Perspolis per your recommendation. Is that true or false?
Afshin – I prefer not to make comments on individual players at this moment.
Kaveh – Have you recommended any player to be signed by Perspolis?
Afshin – I prefer not to answer this question as well.
Kaveh â€“ Let me get to the point. Will we see you very shortly in Iran as the new head coach of Perspolis?
Afshin – We are in the final stage of our discussions and negotiations. Once concluded, I hope to be in Tehran shortly.
Kaveh – Letâ€™s talk about Iranâ€™s match against Korea. The game ended in a very dramatic fashion. As the Koreaâ€™s coach you looked very pleased and showed emotions. How did you feel as an Iranian?
Afshin – As all Iranians, I have special feelings for my country, Iranian people and the national team. As an international coach, I have an obligation and duty to my team and players. So, it is difficult scenario that can only be managed by approaching the game professionally.
Kaveh – I donâ€™t remember if any Iranian coach has ever had to work with his team against Team Melli. How does one feel when placed in such situation?
Afshin – Words can never describe my feelings. More coaches around the world are faced with the same scenario, and it is time for Iranian coaches to show their qualities around the globe. I hope my efforts and work will make it easier for more Iranian coaches to work outside of Iran in international football.
Kaveh – You spoke to a few Iranian players after the game. What did you talk about?
Afshin – Those conversations are always private.
Kaveh – You were quoted saying that you were surprised with the system Iran played. Why the surprise?
Afshin – I expected them to play in a 4-2-3-1.
Kaveh â€“ The Korean team had difficulty scoring as much as the Iranian side. What do you think are the problems of each side and how do they compare with each other?
Afshin – As long as I have worked in Korea, we have always struggled in the final third of the pitch. We lacked innovation, precision, and feeling around the goal in the Asian Cup. Iran scored a pair of goals in each match of the group stage, and they only failed to score against Korea.
Kaveh – Is this Korean team one that you were building for 2010 or you brought it to the Asian Cup to win at all cost?
Afshin – This was our best available selection given the injuries to 4 key players. We came to the Asian Cup to win the Cup.
Kaveh – How did you find the quality of the Asian Cup tournament?
Afshin – There is more parity amongst the teams. The teams are defensively more compact and organized. The teams attack with more sophistication and variation. Finally, the goalkeepers have improved a great deal.
Kaveh – How was the overall organization of the tournament?
Afshin – The tournament was poorly organized on many levels compared to standards of top international tournament. Holding the tournament in 4 countries added to the complication of staging the tournament placing more burden on the players and the coachesâ€¦
Kaveh – Which team was the best in this tournament? Why?
Afshin – Iraq, they were the champions!!!!
Kaveh – Your toughest opponent:
Afshin – Iran, Japan and Saudi were all very good sides.
Kaveh – Iraq or Iran? Which one was tougher? Why?
Afshin – Iran had the best players in the tournament, and Iraq was the most motivatedâ€¦
Kaveh – The three players of Iran impressed you the most:
Afshin – A question I better avoid!
Kaveh – You need to get a tie to advance to the next round. Letâ€™s say you are facing Japan. Do you play to win or go for a tie? Why?
Afshin – I have always played and coached to win! Having said that, I will try to win without taking unnecessary risks.
Kaveh â€“ How do Verbeek. Advoacat and Hiddink compare?
Afshin – All three are Dutchâ€¦In Short, Hiddink is a â€œFootball Foxâ€. Advocaat is all heart. Verbeek is a football teacher. I enjoyed every minute working with all three of them.