AFC - Since its inception in 2010, the AFC Futsal Club Championship title has exchanged hands between Iranian teams on three occasions.
Yet for all its dominance, such is the combative nature of the domestic competition that no team has ever emerged as a front runner for club supremacy, unlike their fellow heavyweights, Japan, who have seen Nagoya Oceans monopolise with all three of the East Asian nation’s titles.
While the central focus will be on Thursday’s quarter-final opponents Bank of Beirut, Giti Pasand head coach Alireza Afzal is already casting his sights on the final.
The 43-year-old - who guided his side to their solitary Asian club title in 2012 - believes this year’s competition presents a golden opportunity to solidify Giti Pasand’s position as the undisputed kings of Iranian club futsal.
“Yes, Iranian teams are very strong, but no one has won this competition twice. We want to win this competition and when we do, we will be the best. We will achieve something no one in IR Iran has done.
“Everyone in IR Iran knows Giti Pasand. All of Asia knows us. Now it is time to put Giti Pasand on the international map. We want to show the world who we are and what we are about,” stressed a confident Afzal.
If recent form is anything to go by, the Iranians have certainly proven their calibre, making light of Shenzhen Nanjing with an emphatic 7-0 victory before battling to a 3-2 win over Japan’s Shriker Osaka for a perfect record in the group stages.
Bank of Beirut are confident going into the quarter-finals against giants Giti Pasand.
Bank of Beirut head coach Dejan Dedovic, meanwhile, is more than happy to live with the underdog label, saying while the Lebanon side have every intention to progress to the last four, the pressure is on the Iranians to deliver.
“Giti Pasand, you could say, are the best team in the competition. In the history of this competition, I don’t believe a team from Lebanon has ever beaten a team from IR Iran so the pressure is on them, not on us.
“But, believe me, the team that has nothing to lose can be the most dangerous team in the competition, and that to me, is one of our biggest advantages. We have to be patient tomorrow, and rely on teamwork, which is another strong point we have in this team.
“We have watched all their games, and while I agree that they have many strengths, their biggest threat comes from individual players. Hassanzadeh and Esmaeilpour are two key players for them.
“If you look at their games so far, especially against the Japanese side, they do not play as a team. Primarily, they depend heavily on good individuals.”
“Compared to us, there is nobody here bigger than the team. Everyone has a role to play and I believe our teamwork and patient approach could spring a surprise tomorrow.”
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