MNA – Persepolis football team coach Branko Ivankovic paid a visit to Mehr News Agency headquarters in Tehran and sat down for an interview with MNA journalists.
Part of the Mehr's long interview with the manager of giant Iranian club Branko Ivankovic was conducted by the MNA English desk, while the most part of it was carried out by the Sports Desk of the MNA in Croatian through his translator. Here is the full text of the English part of the interview with Mr. Ivankovic:
Perspolis have not done very well so far at the group stage of the AFC Champion League and they have only gained one point in two matches. Do you think with this fairly poor results, your team will qualify for the next stage of the Asian competitions?
Our main aim is to qualify for the next stage of [the AFC Champions League]. Of course we lost against the Qatari Al Sadd, but I have to repeat that in the last two years of the AFC Champions seasons, we played in the semi-final and the last season in the final, and we expect to repeat these results… of course, the loss against Al Sadd was not so good, but in the last season, we again lost against the Qatari Al Sadd 3-1 but at the end of the group stage, we collected 13 points and we were the first of the table and qualified for the next stage. So, [qualifying for the next stage] is our main target and that is what we want to do.
Let's talk about the Iranian Persian Gulf Pro League. Do you think that Perspolis will come first at the end of the season again like the last two seasons?
It is very hard to make good results season by season. We took the last three seasons, we were runner-up by goal difference, and the next two seasons we became champion, and now also we are top of the table by the end of the Iranian year. I know that repeating such results is very hard, especially because Esteghlal is a very good team and has brought more than fifteen players. Tractorsazi is the same, it has brought six to seven players, including three national team captains, like Dejagah, Shojaee and Hajsafi, also they have brought some [foreign players] and they have brought a goalkeeper.
Furthermore, there is Sepahan that have brought six to seven good players. So, the competitions will be very hard, very tough and very interesting for the football fans.
My third question deals with the probable financial problems that the US anti-Iran sanctions may have caused for the teams in the Iranian premier league, including Perspolis. Have the sanctions had any negative impacts on the performance of your team?
As you know, the financial problem is not only about Perspolis. It is a problem for all of the teams in the Persian League. The problem is not because of the sanctions and this problem has been there in the last few years. The main goal of the club is…to have financial discipline. The team tries to meet the financial needs of the players, their families, because they are professional players. So, solving the financial problems is a main goal of the club.
At the end of your contract with Perspolis, I do not know when it finishes, will you continue working with the team and resign the contract?
I have to say that I have one and half year contract, and for us, for coaches we never know what will happen tomorrow. We have some words, for example in all cases, we always try to move [forward] because one bad result can change everything. Of course, I feel excellent here in Tehran, in Iran, with Perspolis. We are very satisfied, but there is no guarantee for me and Perspolis who the coach will be, because we never know what happens, because we are professionals, and of course it depends on many things.
And as my last question, I would like to ask you about the difference between Iran and other regional countries football. What are the differences between Iranian players and their Arab rivals?
First of all, Iranian players are more talented players. They are more hard-working. I really enjoy working with my players because they try to do their best… they put so much energy, so passion on the field. So, they are totally different from. The only advantage with the Arab players is that they are better paid and their payment is better than here in Iran.
Thank you very much for your time.
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