Tehran Times - Ex-Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic says that the consistency has been a key to the team’s success over the past years.
At the beginning of 2021, Branko Ivankovic, the former coach of the Iran national football team and Persepolis and the Oman national team's current coach, talked in an exclusive interview with Tehran Times. Among other things, the Croatian coach discussed the 2020 year, revealed his goals for the Oman national team, the situation of Persepolis, and his dreams for 2021.
Tehran Times: Happy New Year, Mr. Branko Ivankovic. What is difference between this New Year’s holiday with the former years?
I’m with my family in my hometown Varazdin in Croatia for the New Year. Finally, after a few months away from home, due to international restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, I’m with my family for the Christmas holiday with the permission of Oman Football Federation. The main difference with the previous years is that public places are closed in my country and as far as I know in Europe. People used to gather in the streets to celebrate in previous years, but now we can’t see such gatherings. Families are limited in their connections with their relatives and also regarding travels to other cities or countries.
2020 was a year that nobody predicted. In your opinion, how was it as a year in general?
It was not a very good year! A very turbulent and dramatic year around the world for all the nations. Apart from the deaths and the health problem caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected and is still affecting all world economies. Many people in all continents have lost their jobs and cannot do their previous jobs again. The economic problems and the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus have made life more difficult for people around the world. In general, 2020 wasn’t the year any of us expected and wasn’t a good year.
What is your assessment of the year 2020 regarding your own career? How would you describe the expectations or goals you hope to accomplish with the Oman national team in a long-term process?
Professionally speaking, I could start a new project with the Oman Football Association to help the Omani national team develop in international competitions. It includes the plans for the senior team's progress and the U23 national team during the negotiation we’ve had with Sheikh Salem, the president of the football association. The situation has been almost good. However, the coronavirus pandemic affected our plans' main parts, which were scheduled for the past spring and summer to be done. Of course, the condition was the same for the other Asian countries as well. Anyway, all our efforts are to bring the level of football of the Oman national team closer to the top Asian teams' level.
Persepolis and defeat in the Asian Champions League (ACL) final match; a familiar story for you! What do you think of the 2020 ACL final and its difference from the 2018 version, in which you were on the Persepolis’ bench?
It was a pity that Persepolis couldn’t win the trophy in 2020. The main difference with my time as head coach was that I faced a two-window transfer ban, and practically it was not possible for me even to add a young player to my squad list. Furthermore, some of our key players had been injured during the path to the final, like Hossein Mahini. Fortunately, in 2020 the competition was held in a centralized format in a neutral venue. The teams played a single-elimination match in the knockout stage, while we had to travel to other countries in 2018 to play two-legged ties. So, the 2020 edition was easier for Persepolis, who have dominated Iranian football in the past years and have had consistency in the continental competition. It’s a key to their success. It was a great opportunity to win the trophy, but unfortunately, two individual mistakes caused Persepolis to lose the game. The mistakes are part of football, and no one should be blamed for them. The Ulsan Hyundai were not an unbeatable opponent for Persepolis, but this is football, and because of such happenings, it has become the most popular sport in the world.
Are you following the Iran Professional League yet? Are Persepolis favorites to win the trophy for the fifth consecutive season?
I can assure you that Persepolis are the only team that feel confident in themselves and can repeat their success for the fifth time. It’s because they have shown a progressive and rising trend both as a club and as a team, unlike other Iranian teams that have no consistency in their performance and their results despite being at the top of the table for a short time. So, don’t doubt Persepolis’ ability to win the title for the fifth time.
Do you think that the departure of players like Shoja Khalilzadeh and Bashar Resan can lead to Persepolis’ failure in the current season? Yahya Golmaohammadi has been moaning continuously about it. However, many people compare this situation with the team you had in 2018 due to the transfer ban and consider this team much better regarding the players' quality.
Look, in the last season of my presence at Persepolis, some players added to the team, and some others left the team so that we could strengthen the team after two difficult transfer-window bans. It continued during the time of Gabriel Calderon, and then Yayha Golmohammadi and several players came in or left the squad to keep the team's structure. Definitely, the departure of Bashar and Shoja can create problems for the team. But it’s a normal condition for any player to change his team during his career. We cannot blame them, and they should be given the right to decide about their future. I think it’s not a good time for Persepolis to think about the players who left the club. Some good players are added to the team in the previous transfer window, and the return of Vahid Amiri and signing of Ehsan Pahlevan, who missed the ACL final match, is a boost for the team. I believe that Persepolis own an organized team with great players and knowledgeable technical staff who have proven their qualities during the last and current season. So, they can achieve more success with current coaches and players.
Your wishes and goals for 2021?
Firstly, I wish health for myself, my family and all the people around the world. I hope that the deadly pandemic will be eradicated in 2021, and people find peace of mind not only for 2021 but in the upcoming years and decades. I want to try my best for the Oman national team to progress and accomplish the goals we have set in our project with hard work. Although, it all depends on the pandemic condition again, I hope to do our job in the best way possible.
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