Afshin Ghotbi In Interview With

Afshin Ghotbi In Interview With

“Persepolis is one of the most popular, maybe the most popular, clubs in Asia because they have 30 million followers.”

“If you are a player or a coach with Persepolis and you travel anywhere in the world you will meet an Iranian person somewhere in some street that will recognise you and run to you and talk about how you won or lost or how you performed in a particular match. That’s the kind of passion that fans of Persepolis have.

“Obviously it means a lot to Japanese football, and obviously it means a lot to Kashima fans, but multiply that maybe by 10, or even more, and that’s what it means to Iranian fans because football has a different place in the hearts of Iranian people, and Persepolis has a very special place for Iranian fans. Persepolis fans are born and die as Persepolis fans, that’s how they are.”

Tehran Times-I am proud of my Iranian origin: Afshin Ghotbi

Tehran Times-I am proud of my Iranian origin: Afshin Ghotbi

The 54-year-old coach led Iranian giants Persepolis to win the domestic title, however, Ghotbi believes it’s not his biggest achievement in football.

Finishing fourth with South Korea in the 2002 World Cup as assistant of Dutchman Guus Hiddink and winning the championship with LA Galaxy are very important success in his career, the Iranian coach asserted.  

Ghotbi has already worked in seven different countries, but he also likes to coach a German football team. Fortuna Dusseldorf, Hannover 96 and Prussia Münster has reportedly negotiated with Ghotbi, reported.  

“I’m very disappointed that it did not work out. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I’m not German than with my quality as a coach. I’ve been interested in German football all my life. As a small boy, I stayed up late at night to watch Bundesliga matches. As a 10-year-old, I was in Germany during the 1974 World Cup. It is one of my dreams to be able to work in German football,” he emphasized.

Ghotbi must be a special coach, you could see the reaction of the fans and players of the Chinese second division Shijiazhuang Ever Bright after his departure in early September. You could see tears in their eyes after they found out their coach would leave their team.

“Football is an international game. Working abroad and living in different parts of the world has always fascinated me. I have worked in seven countries in my career because I like the sporting, social and cultural challenges. Each country offers different challenges and growth opportunities. I have been able to inspire, educate and make people happy. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity,” Ghotbi said.

“I am proud of my origin, my history and my past. It helped me develop a diverse cultural understanding and tolerance. With a non-traditional football background, I had to prove myself every day and become a better person and coach,” explains the Iranian-born, who grew up in the U.S. and had to do more work and time because of his origin than others.

Ghotbi also calls himself a sympathetic, passionate and open-minded coach.

“Football is my religion, the club is my home and players are my family. There is no perfect coach, but it challenges us to get better every day. New ideas are all around us. We can learn from everyone, the key is to listen with an open mind and an open heart,” he stated.

Q. & A. With Former Iran Coach Afshin Ghotbi: ‘’ Global Manager in seven countries ‘’

Q. & A. With Former Iran Coach Afshin Ghotbi: ‘’ Global Manager in seven countries ‘’

Afshin Ghotbi  (photo) is considered as an innovative, but also widely traveled coach. The 54 year old has already worked in seven different countries. Whether South Korea, Japan or Iran: everywhere he could leave traces. His work was also noticed by some German clubs and he was about to have another challenge in Germany.

Afshin Ghotbi must be a special coach, you could see the reaction of the fans and players of the Chinese second division Shijiazhuang Ever Bright. After his departure in early September, they stood partly with tears in eyes and supported their coach for the last time.

             Q: At your last club in China, players and fans wept after you left. Have you ever experienced something like this?

             A: I prefer fans cheering and happy, not crying (smile).  On a serious note, I have a very deep passion for football.  I bring that deep love to my job every day, and I believe that feeling resonance with the players and fans.   Per your question, I have experienced that in every position in my football career.  Good byes are always hard.  

Q: You worked as trainers in some countries. What prompted you to go abroad and not stay in the US?

A: Football is a global game, and I have always been a global citizen.  Working abroad and experiencing living in different parts of the world has always intrigued me.  I worked in 7 countries in my career, as I enjoy the sporting, social and cultural challenges.  Each country represent different sets of challenges and opportunities for growth.  Football connects people, and I have been able to inspire, educate and make people happy through my work.  I feel fortunate to have this platform.


Q: Why did you want to become a coach? What is the appeal of your work? 

A: I played football since I could walk, and I always enjoyed telling people what to do (smile).  I found my calling in life early, as I started my coaching career by working with youth players.  I found it very rewarding to be part of the development of a human life.  Football provides a unique platform to offer life lessons to young people.   Later in professional and international football, I recognized my work can have not only sporting impact, but social, cultural and economical ones.  Uniting communities and nations, raising confidence and national pride to an entire country, inspiring creativity and awareness about social issues are few of many fruits of my labor.

Q: You were not a professional football player, a disadvantage in the coaching profession?

A: We were the lost generation in the USA, as we fell between the NASL and MLS period ( the professional leagues in USA at different periods).  I played at the highest level possible in the USA during my generation, but we could not make enough money playing football after I graduated from UCLA (my university).  So, I continued my playing career while I coached youth players to support my family.  In my humble opinion, players without the big playing career will make better coaches. Their lack of fame and relationships will force them to have a more humble beginning, their performance will be under constant scrutiny by media and fans, and they will have to work harder to build their careers… Therefore, it will be big disadvantage to develop a successful coaching career without a distinguished playing career.  But, it is possible!

Q: You were assistant coach under some great coaches. What did you learn most from which coach?

A: I have been lucky to work with some of the best coaches in the world, and I have learned from each and everyone one of them different skills.  No course, book, video can equate the actual day-to-day life as a coach in a professional club or national football team.  Every manager has their own strength and priorities.  Some are great tactician or trainers, some are great people managers & motivators, and some are masters with the media.  All of them had to be winner to become successful managers.  Professional football is all about results, and the results are the byproduct of your attention to details on and off the field.  At the end, I have developed my own unique ideology and working method to be a successful modern football manager. 

Q: How has the coaching job changed in recent years?

A: The game has rapidly changed in recent years.  The demands on the players continue to grow on and off the field.  Coaches are forced to manage more complex challenges daily on and off the field.  Fixture congestion, media and social media growing influence, sports agents growing power in each club, technological application, and players evolving priorities are some but not only management challenges coaches face in the modern game.

Q: You were born in Iran, but grew up in the United States. Do you feel more than Iranians or more than Americans? Did you have to invest more time and work than other people ?

A: I am proud of my heritage, history and past.  They have helped me develop a diverse cultural understanding and tolerance.  By having a non-traditional football background, I have had to be prove myself each and everyday making me a better man and manger.

Q: You are innovative in terms of training control and training planning. What is special about your training?

A: I believe the game is the best teacher, so I have developed exercises utilizing all components of the game.  Functional, economical, dynamic, explosive and exciting are some words that can describe my methodology. Challenging players to take decisions under pressure, to execute technical speed with precision, and emphasis on tactical organization are important in developing players individually and collectively.  Using technology to monitor the physical load, using drones and cameras to get the best images from each training, and creating competition in each exercise will improve players and teams.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a coach? What does the perfect coach look like? Where do you get new ideas and suggestions from?

A: I describe myself as a personable, passionate, energetic, humble and open minded coach… Football is my religion, the club is my home, and players are my family.  There is no perfect coach, but perfection will challenge us to be better with each passing day.  New ideas are all around us.  We can learn from every-one, the key is to keep an open heart and mind.  

Q: What do you expect from your players?

A: Everything! I give them my all, and I expect from them their all. 

Q: You have worked with different players from different cultures? There are differences in training. Is there something that connects the players?

A: Regardless of geography, players have many similarities.  Successful players are intelligent everywhere motivated by money, fame and off days.  Most of them have realized winning and success bring them closer to their wishes and dreams.  Obviously there are cultural difference and challenges, and the key for me is to tailor my training and method to utilize the strength of my players.  

Q: You have spoken as a coach with Hannover 96, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Preußen Münster. Is that correct? How disappointed are you that it did not work and that Germany is your big goal?

A: Yes!  I was very disappointed that it did not work out, but I believe it has more to do with not being German than my quality as a trainer.   I have been interested in German football all my life.  As a young boy, I would stay up late in the evening to watch Bundesliga matches live.  As a 10 year old boy, I was in Germany during the World Cup 1974.  It is one of my life dreams to work in German football.  

Q: Would you also be willing to learn the German language to get a chance in Germany?

A: Of Course!  

Q: Why is it difficult for foreign head coaches to get a job in Germany?

A: That is a question for the Sports Director and Presidents of German clubs.  I believe having trainers with different back ground will actually make the German League more interesting and attractive.  EPL is a good example.

Q: What targets do you generally have as a coach?

A: It is always about Winning and trophies!

Q: What were your biggest achievements for you?

A: That is a difficult question to answer, as I have had success at every level at various scales.    Winning  at the youth, professional and international level,  developing international players with success on global stage and winning trophies with incredibly challenging circumstance are all achievements I will cherish in my career.  Obviously, finishing fourth with South Korea at the World Cup 2002, winning MLS and US Cup with the LA Galaxy, and winning the IPL trophy with Persepolis, playing with the youngest selection in the history of the J-League and getting results ranks on top of my achievements.  

Q: Many coaches do not use Facebook or Instagram. You are very active in the networks. Why?

A: My goal has been to bring fans closer to my team and give the fans accurate and unfiltered narrative of my work.  

Afshin Ghotbi – Interview with : Trainer in sieben Ländern

Afshin Ghotbi – Interview with : Trainer in sieben Ländern

Afshin Ghotbi (Foto) gilt als innovativer, aber auch weitgereister Trainer. In sieben verschiedenen Ländern arbeitete der 54-Jährige bereits. Ob Südkorea, Japan oder der Iran: Überall konnte er Spuren hinterlassen. Seine Arbeit war auch einigen deutschen Vereinen aufgefallen, mehrfach stand er kurz davor, nach Deutschland zu wechseln.

Dass Ghotbi ein besonderer Trainer sein muss, konnte man an der Reaktion der Fans und Spieler des chinesischen Zweitligisten Shijiazhuang Ever Bright sehen. Nach seinem Abschied Anfang September standen sie teils mit Tränen in den Augen Spalier und verabschiedeten ihren Coach.

„Ich bevorzuge Fans, die jubeln, glücklich sind und nicht weinen. Im Ernst, ich verbinde mit dem Fußball eine sehr tiefe Leidenschaft und versuche sie mit in meinen Job zu nehmen. Ich glaube, dass ich bei den Spielern und Fans einen Anklang dafür finde“, erklärt der gebürtige Iraner, der in den USA aufgewachsen ist und dort auch aufgrund seiner Herkunft mehr Arbeit und Zeit investieren musste als andere. „Ich bin stolz auf meine Herkunft, meine Geschichte und meine Vergangenheit. Sie hat mir geholfen, ein vielfältiges kulturelles Verständnis und Toleranz zu entwickeln. Mit einem nicht-traditionellen Fußball-Hintergrund musste ich mich jeden Tag beweisen und konnte mich zu einem besseren Menschen und Trainer entwickeln“, so Ghotbi.


Dass der Fußball Menschen verbinden kann, war auch der Grund für ihn, eine internationale Trainerkarriere anzustreben. „Fußball ist ein internationales Spiel und ich war schon immer ein weltoffener Bürger. Im Ausland zu arbeiten und in verschiedenen Teilen der Welt zu leben, hat mich immer fasziniert. Ich habe in meiner Karriere in sieben Ländern gearbeitet, weil ich die sportlichen, sozialen und kulturellen Herausforderungen mag. Jedes Land bietet unterschiedliche Herausforderungen und Wachstumschancen. Fußball verbindet und durch meine Arbeit konnte ich Menschen inspirieren, ausbilden und glücklich machen. Ich habe das Glück, diese Plattform zu haben“, so der 54-Jährige, der sich nichts anderes vorstellen konnte als Trainer zu werden.

© imago / Afshin Ghotbi, Trainer von Shimizu S-Pulse, mit Freddie Ljungberg

„Ich habe Fußball gespielt, seit ich laufen konnte und es hat mir immer Spaß gemacht, den Leuten zu sagen, was sie tun sollen. Ich fand meine Berufung schon früh im Leben, als ich meine Karriere als Trainer mit Jugendlichen begann. Später im professionellen und internationalen Fußball erkannte ich, dass meine Arbeit nicht nur sportliche, sondern auch soziale, kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Auswirkungen haben kann. Die Vereinigung von Gemeinschaften und Nationen, das Erhöhen des Vertrauens und des Nationalstolzes auf ein ganzes Land, das Anregen von Kreativität und das Bewusstsein für soziale Fragen sind nur einige meiner Früchte“, so Ghotbi.

Bereits zum Anfang seiner Karriere hatte er sich dem asiatischen Kontinent verschrieben. Zunächst arbeitete er als Chefanalytiker für den südkoreanischen Verband unter Cheftrainer Guus Hiddink, um dann, unter Dick Advocaat, Co-Trainer der Nationalmannschaft zu werden. Im weiteren Verlauf der Karriere hinterließ er u.a. in seiner dreijährigen Amtszeit beim japanischen Erstligisten Shimizu S-Pulse Spuren.

Den vermeintlich größten Erfolg feierte er aber in seinem Heimatland, dem Iran. Mit dem Persepolis FC feierte er 2008 den Gewinn der Meisterschaft, wurde Trainer des Jahres, um dann die iranische Nationalmannschaft zu übernehmen. Ghotbi sieht dies aber nicht ganz so: „Es ist schwierig zu sagen, das war mein größter Erfolg oder das war mein größter Erfolg. Ich hatte auf allen Ebenen und auf unterschiedliche Arten Erfolg. In der Jugend wichtige Spiele zu gewinnen, ist genauso großartig wie auf internationaler Ebene Erfolge zu feiern oder internationale Spieler zu entwickeln. Alles macht großen Spaß. Aber wahrscheinlich sind die offensichtlichsten Dinge die wichtigsten in meiner Karriere gewesen, wie WM-Vierter mit Südkorea bei der Weltmeisterschaft 2002 zu werden, mit LA Galaxy die Meisterschaft und den Pokal zu gewinnen und natürlich der Erfolg mit Persepolis im Iran“, bilanziert der Weltenbummler. 

Dass Ghotbi im internationalen Fußball einen guten Ruf genießt, liegt nicht nur an seiner ruhigen und besonnenen Art, sondern auch an seiner Trainingsweise: „Ich glaube, das Spiel selbst ist der beste Lehrer. Deshalb habe ich Übungen entwickelt, bei denen alle Komponenten des Spiels zum Einsatz kommen. Funktionell, dynamisch und explosiv sind einige Worte, die meine Methodik beschreiben können. Für mich ist es wichtig, die Spieler herauszufordern. Sie sollen Entscheidungen unter Druck treffen und gleichzeitig technisches und taktisches Tempo präzise ausführen. Zudem ist wichtig, die Spieler gemeinsam aber auch individuell zu entwickeln. Wir leben in einer Zeit, wo es von digitalen Entwicklungen nur so wimmelt. Deshalb nutze ich Drohnen und Kameras, um die besten Bilder vom Training zu erhalten, analysieren und daraus die physische Belastung zu überwachen.“

Ghotbi hat derweil auch eine klare Einschätzung von sich selbst: „Ich bezeichne mich als einen sympathischen, leidenschaftlichen und aufgeschlossenen Trainer. Fußball ist meine Religion, der Verein ist mein Zuhause und Spieler sind meine Familie. Es gibt keinen perfekten Trainer, aber die Perfektion fordert uns heraus, jeden Tag besser zu werden. Neue Ideen sind überall um uns herum. Wir können von allen lernen, der Schlüssel ist, ein offenes Herz und einen offenen Geist zu haben.“

Auch Deutschland wäre fast in seiner Vita gelandet. Mit Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hannover 96 und Preußen Münster stand er in Verhandlungen, doch auf der Zielgerade sagten die Vereine ab. „Ich war sehr enttäuscht, dass es nicht geklappt hat. Aber ich glaube, es hat mehr damit zu tun, dass ich kein Deutscher bin als mit meiner Qualität als Trainer. Ich habe mich schon mein ganzes Leben für den deutschen Fußball interessiert. Als kleiner Junge blieb ich spät abends auf, um Bundesligaspiele live zu sehen. Als Zehnjähriger war ich während der Weltmeisterschaft 1974 in Deutschland. Es ist einer meiner Lebensträume, im deutschen Fußball arbeiten zu können“, betont der 54-Jährige.


Die fehlende deutsche Sprache möchte Ghotbi nicht als Absagegrund stehen lassen. „Wenn mir ein Profiverein in Deutschland die Chance gibt, nehme ich sofort Privatunterricht und werde in Zukunft auch versuchen Interviews auf Deutsch zu halten. Insgesamt könnten ausländische Trainer die Liga deutlich bereichern, die Premier League in England macht es doch vor“, sagt der Iraner abschließend.



Von Henrik Stadnischenko

Afshin Ghotbi – Interview with : The Azadi is the Colosseum of Asia

Afshin Ghotbi – Interview with : The Azadi is the Colosseum of Asia

Afshin Ghotbi - Interview with : The Azadi is the Colosseum of Asia

Tehran: Former Persepolis manager Afshin Ghotbi knows just what it feels like to savour glory at the Azadi Stadium, where the 2018 AFC Champions League final between the Islamic Republic of Iran giant and Kashima Antlers of Japan will be decided on Saturday.


Ghotbi also spent three-and-a-half years coaching in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse, leaving him uniquely placed to run the rule over the sides battling to be crowned kings of the Continent.

The 54-year-old has enjoyed a long and distinguished career around Asia and beyond, but his triumph of steering Persepolis to the league title at the Azadi in 2008 is a moment that remains etched on his memory.

“In the final game against Sepahan we won in the 96th minute with 110,000 people in the stadium,” he recalls. “That atmosphere is absolutely electric. There are no words in any language that can describe the feeling of winning there.

“As an Asian football player or a coach, playing in that stadium is a wonderful experience. It’s really the Colosseum of football pitches in Asia.”

Kashima have their noses in front in the final after winning the first leg 2-0 last Saturday in Japan, but Ghotbi is sure the fervent support in Tehran will unsettle Go Oiwa’s team.

“I think they’ll struggle with the fact that literally from the night before there will be people outside the stadium, and then from the morning of the game it will be absolutely full. The noise in that stadium is amazing.”

However, he also feels the intense atmosphere could weigh heavily on the home side.

“It creates a challenge for the Persepolis coaching staff and the players, with regards to the amount of pressure and the stress they are under. At home they will feel the pressure to get the result for their fans.”


In terms of footballing approach, Ghotbi detects almost polar opposition in the Japanese and Iranian style.

“You’re talking about such a clash of cultures. (With Japanese teams) you’re talking about very organised, very conservative – a society that’s so collective – and then when you look at Iranian football it’s very creative, it’s all about improvisation.

“It’s about players that are products of street football, so they are able to individually create situations that are maybe advantageous.”


Ultimately, however, he feels the victor will be decided by whoever manages to best hold their nerve in the Azadi cauldron.

“I think in any final it’s all about finishing your chances and who makes the least mistakes, so I think it will come down to that.”

Creating a New Breed of Youth Players in the USA

Creating a New Breed of Youth Players in the USA

Since I began working for US Soccer as a national staff instructor, I have had the privilege of being part of a series of positive and sweeping improvements to how we train our youth coaches in the United States. US Soccer has highlighted all these sweeping changes with a very simple, yet elegant formula:


Better Coaching + Better Environment= BETTER PLAYERS


With the recent introduction of new, veteran European leadership at Soccer House, US Soccer has embarked on and even bolder and targeted campaign to improve youth soccer coaching at the grassroots level, to ensure that the formula pays off.


The systematic restructuring of the license pathway is first and foremost. The new European approach worked out the changes from the top to the bottom. For the first time ever, at the pinnacle of the coaching education pyramid there will be a Pro License. Underneath the Pro, there will be two A License pathways, one geared to prepare coaches to work at the senior level and the other to prepare them to work at the elite youth level. The B license has now become the top youth license and the standard which all US development academy coaches must possess. The C remains the gateway to the national licenses.


These changes in content and outcome have also included additional course content and work that reach beyond the training ground and extend to leadership, player and team management, and development of a performance environment. Once the outcomes at the top of the pyramid were defined, the Coaching Education Staff embarked on a second phase of restructuring at the base of the pyramid. That final phase will now connect the F, E, and D (grassroots licenses) to the national C, B, and A.


The restructuring of the lower licenses, dealing with players U6-U12 will be one of the most dramatic changes made yet to how we develop young players to prepare for the adult game (11 v 11). With last year’s launching of the Small Sided Initiatives (platforms for 4 v 4, 7 v 7, 9 v 9 to be age appropriate), there was a need to retool the F, E, and D to also become more age appropriate and better prepare coaches to teach the game to match the needs of the new small sided game standards.


In addition to grafting small-sided games concepts into the new course curricula, US Soccer have also opened up the licensing pathway to ‘lateral entry,’ meaning that if you are a working U12 coach, there is no need for you to begin your licensing pathway at the bottom (U6), but rather seek the education and the licensing for the age which is appropriate to you. This specific tailoring of licensing courses to match coaching levels, will now ensure that candidates working with our youngest and most precious player resources, will be able to train and learn in a more focused environment that centers around the needs of the players they are actually working with and better achieve the desired outcomes for those ages.


By 2017, the transformed licensing pathway will be complete and have its first generation of graduates applying their knowledge at the grassroots and elite youth levels. It will be very interesting to begin tracking the youngest categories of our players (U6-U12) to see how the new methodology boosts their knowledge of the game and their technical ability. It will also be quite interesting to see if five years down the line, we begin to truly create a new and distinct ‘profile’ of American player, perhaps one made in the image of Christian Pulisic; a sound technician with superb decision making ability.


As with many of the great ‘movements’ to impact a national style, it will take time, patience, adaptability, and faith in the philosophy to reap the benefits of change. As a part of the staff who helped shape the new curriculum, I am hopeful that the changes will bring great results. As an active club Director and coach, I am now accountable for their implementation and challenged every day to translate them onto the training grounds. Time will tell, but I think we have made some positive choices to achieve generational change. Better coaching is on its way, next we will have to tackle the problem of the environment.

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