Canpl - As part of the club’s official unveiling, Vancouver FC announced on Wednesday evening that Afshin Ghotbi will be its first ever head coach.
The 58-year-old comes to the Lower Mainland with an incredible wealth of coaching experience, having worked in the game at all sorts of levels from youth football to the very pinnacle of the sport, including coaching at three FIFA World Cups.
Ghotbi was born in Iran but moved to the United States as a teenager, and he had a brief stint as a player at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He began coaching in the 1980s, beginning with the UCLA women’s team and going on to found his own academy — American Global Soccer School — in California.
He joined the U.S. Soccer organization in the late 1990s, working on the technical staff for the men’s national team in 1997 and 1998 during the side’s appearance at World Cup ’98 in France. Ghotbi went on to work as an assistant coach with the South Korean national team, helping that side at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as appearances in the Confederations Cup, Asian Cup, and Gold Cup.
In 2009, Ghotbi was named head coach of the Iranian national team, helping lead them to the quarter-finals of the 2011 Asian Cup.
At the club level, Ghotbi has worked in a number of different countries around the world as both a head coach and assistant. He was an assistant under Steve Sampson with LA Galaxy in 2004-05 and helped them win MLS Cup, and he won the Iranian league title in 2008 as head coach of Persepolis FC, also being named the league’s coach of the year for that season. Ghotbi has also worked for top-flight clubs in South Korea (Samsung Bluewings) and Japan (Shimizu S-Pulse), and he most recently helmed Cangzhou Mighty Lions FC in China, helping them earn promotion to the Chinese Super League in 2019.
“I want to thank Rob Friend, Dean Shillington and the team at Vancouver FC for trusting me with this exciting project,” said Ghotbi. “Now is an exciting moment for Canadian soccer, and the ever-growing passion for the game on the Lower Mainland and from coast to coast is evident. I look forward to building a club that will make our fans proud on and off the field.”
VFC owner Rob Friend explained on Wednesday that Ghotbi was the leading candidate to lead the CPL’s newest expansion club after an extensive search process.
“Part of the process was giving Canadian coaches an opportunity to be interviewed,” Friend said. “As a proud Canadian, we went through the process. But ultimately, who was ready to take on this massive challenge? Afshin sort of landed in our lap, and this is a guy who has a huge international resumé. Been around the world, and understands the global game, the highs and lows of that. Been through it all, coached with a translator. A lot of challenges that he has had, and had a lot of success internationally.”
He added: “I think it reflects on the city. This is a multicultural city and I think one of the biggest multicultural cities, aside I think from Toronto. A guy like that, with that sort of international experience, Iranian-U.S. passport, understands the game from different angles. His resume speaks for itself, but most importantly we are proud of bringing in a guy with the character that Afshin has. He is a fantastic character.
“He is a warrior, he is a fighter, and that’s what we want to bring to this club. Bringing these types of international coaches to this country is only going to continue to grow the game. If we have some young Canadian assistant coaches learning, mentoring under a guy like Afshin, that’s growing the game in that as well, on the coaching side. It was really nice, obviously the timing worked out. To have a guy like that to grow the game, to speak about the game in this market, we are proud of that and I think he is going to do a great job.”