Afshin Ghotbi; Iranian Emperor in the Land of the Rising Sun
Less than two years after his departure from Iran’s national team, Afshin Ghotbi has guided Shimizu S-Pulse to the J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup’s final.
Although this competition is not comparable with the J. League title, this is a big triumph for Ghotbi’s supporters in Iran. His fans follow Shimizu’s results eagerly, and they still believe their “Emperor” was one of the best Team Melli’s managers in recent years.
Analyst or Manager?
During Ghotbi’s three years stint in charge of Persepolis and Team Melli, there were many debates about his quality and abilities. His critics believed he didn’t have enough experience and knowledge to be the number one in a big club or the national team, and even winning the title for Persepolis did not change their opinions.
To them, Ghotbi was a simple analyst and his experience with great managers like Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat was a bluff. Some local managers like Naser Hejazi and Mohammad Maili Koyan were also critics who attacked him, constantly. In their view, Ghotbi was a “demagogue” and “dream maker” and his promise to take Iran to the 2010 World Cup was a big lie.
Ghotbi had passionate fans too, who never doubted him, despite of the failure in the world cup qualifiers and AFC Asian Cup. To them, Ghotbi was representative of a new culture and philosophy in football. and they support him until now.
Shimizu; The new opportunity
Between his departure from Persepolis and his taking the helm of the Iran national team, Ghotbi was unemployed, and this was another pretext for his critics to attack him. They asked ”If Ghotbi is an international coach, why doesn’t any club want him?”
But when he signed a three years contract with Shimizu S-Pulse ahead of the 2011 Asian Cup, they again criticized his lack of attention and commitment to Team Melli. In contrast, his joining to a Japanese club was a good answer to critics for Ghotbi fans.
Although the ex-manager of Persepolis left Iran with a heartbreaking loss against South Korea in the 2011 Asian Cup, his fans kept their faith.
Ghotbi’s boys face Kashima Antlers on Saturday and literally, this match has the same importance for Iranian fans as Shimizu fans. Once upon a time, one of the most famous Iranian pundits said about Ghotbi: “History will judge people and the small ones will forget”, but it seems Ghotbi’s critics are the ones who have to worry.
Behnam Jafarzadeh is a Tehran-based Iranian football writer