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Iran enjoys a golden generation: Afshin Ghotbi

Afshin Ghotbi

Tehran Times - Former Iran national football team Afshin Ghotbi says that he cannot talk about Dragan Skocic since he is not familiar with him but he is sure the Iranian players can help their team qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup if the federation gives them the proper support and care.

The “Persian Leopards” need four wins to book a place in the next round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification and Ghotbi, who has already headed Iran in the 2010 World Cup qualification, believe that the Iranian players can make it possible.

In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, Afshin Ghotbi, coach of top-tier team Shijiazhuang Everbright, has talked about his career in Iranian football clubs and National Team.

Tehran Times: It has been difficult for you and your players since you have been in isolation due to coronavirus for months. Let us know, what is your team’s condition at the moment?

Ghotbi: After the historic promotion on November 2, 2019, we diligently created a strategy to strengthen the selection to be able to compete in the Chinese Super League. Our budget is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, so we have had to be pragmatic, efficient and precise in every decision. Corona virus created a global pandemic our generation has never experienced, so there has been a sense of uncertainty, isolation and loss of control. We have tried to take it one day at a time and focus on helping others, improving each players and through self-reflection discovering better and more effective ways in preparing the team.

COVID-19 has shut down the sports, however the many countries have started their competitions since last month. As a coach who has worked in many countries, can be acceptable to play behind closed the doors since many say football is nothing without fans?

Fans are the soul of the game. They provide the sight and sounds inspiring memorable performances from the players and teams. The players will have to find inspiration from within themselves and their teammates to create a spectacle worth watching for fans on television or online. We have a rare opportunity during this pandemic to be a symbol of hope for our fans and create a distraction for at least 90 minutes away from all the challenges people are facing in their lives.

As Pim Verbeek’s assistant, you helped South Korea to beat star-studded Iran in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. A year later, you were appointed as Persepolis coach and inspired them to win the league title after six years. You made a great job since Persepolis had suffered six-point deduction at that time. Just tell us about the last match against Sepahan, where Persepolis won the title in the dying moments of the match.

This day will be remembered by all Persepolis and football fans forever. Winning is always important in sports, but the way we triumphed on this day of May 17, 2008 is the most important. Against all odds, heart of a lion, courage, passion, team work, human spirit, and God’s intervention.

It was written in the stars, and forever it will be a source of inspiration for everyone who witnessed and experienced this season.

You were chosen as Iran national football team coach in 2009 but won nothing with the team. Under your stewardship, Iran lost to South Korea in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final. Tell us what happened.

Your description of winning nothing is quite harsh. Success is defined and measured differently at different times, and history is more a reflection of people’s opinion rather than the facts. There were extraordinary political, social, economical and sporting circumstances during this period between April of 2009 and January 2011. Somethings are better left unsaid, as my enduring love for my country and national team will never allow me to speak negatively.

You returned to Iran after many years and took charge of Foolad but opted to leave the team to join Shijiazhuang. Was financial reasons behind the decision?

I truly enjoyed my short time at Foolad, but there are many reasons for my departure. Please allow me to show respect to Foolad football club and fans and not discuss internal matters and events.

And last question. Iran have a difficult task to advance to the 2022 World Cup for the third time in a row. The ‘Persian Leopards’ will have to win their four remaining matches. Do you think Dragan Skocic can make it happen?

I am not familiar with Mr. Dragan Skocic's work, so I cannot comment on his ability. But We are enjoying the availability of a golden generation in Iranian football. We have the top talents in Asia. If the Iranian players are given the proper support and care by the football federation, I believe Iran will qualify for 2022.

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