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FRIDAY WITH… HOSSEIN MORADMAND

This week, Sina Saemian, caught up with Iran Under-23s international, Hossein Moradmand, and spoke to him at length about various issues. Hossein is a centre back who currently plays for Padideh Mashhad in the Persian Gulf Pro League. He is a graduate of the Sepahan academy and made several appearances for the club in the last few years. After winning the league title with Sepahan, he decided his time in Esfahan was over and began a new challenge with Padideh, in search of regular football.

 

  • Firstly tell us about your current situation. You were released by Sepahan during the summer and recently signed for Padideh. Why did you choose Padideh? Did you have any other offers?

Thank god my current situation is very good, I played for Sepahan 3-4 years but I didn’t get too many opportunities. I sat down and thought about it and I came to the conclusion that I may have to leave to play regular football. After speaking to my agent, I chose Padideh and I’m very happy to be here.

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  • You were born in Esfahan, lived there all your life and came through the Sepahan academy and went on to play for their first team. How did it feel to win the league title with your local club? Did you expect to play more games than you did?

Well, it was very pleasant for me. I was at the Sepahan academy since I was a child, and I was used to the feeling of winning honours because even in grassroots at the youth academy we always won our respective leagues and I can’t remember a season when we weren’t champions or 2nd at least. Of course that was carried on into the senior team too, we won the Hazfi Cup too, so at such a young age I’ve experienced winning 2 or 3 major trophies with Sepahan and everything was great. Yes I loved to carry on playing at Sepahan but for reasons I did not get enough regular games, and I won’t really go into too much details about the reasons.

  • How was the atmosphere around the team? Not many people expected you to become champions of Iran, with Naft and Tractor Sazi leading the table most of the season. Was it a surprise for you too or did you genuinely believe you could become champions?

That’s right, few people believed we can win the league, but we just concentrated on ourselves and we said we have to win the last 5-6 games to have the chance to become champions, thank god we managed to win those games and won the league title.

Moradmand

  • Many people praise Zlatko Kranjcar, who managed Sepahan between 2011 to 2014, for giving first team opportunities to many young academy graduates such as yourself, Mehdi Sharifi and Ali Karimi. Do you think we need more similar coaches who are willing to put more faith in youngsters?

Well, I think I have to explain a few things about that. The reason why so many of us youngsters got opportunities in the first team was somewhat forced. Back then our strike force had some problems, Mohammad Gholami wasn’t in form, Xevahir Sukaj had an injury as did Arash Afshin, so Mehdi Sharifi was promoted to the first team and thankfully he did extremely well. That was also the case with Ali Karimi too, an injury to Moharram Navidkia and the departure of Mojtaba Jabbari, opened up an space for Ali Karimi and thank god he performed really well. And I also came in and played a few games and then dropped for some reason. But in terms of Zlatko Kranjcar, he is really a great manager and we shouldn’t have let him go, or at the least should have respected him after his departure. There was, wrongly, a lot of controversy created for him in Iran after his departure, but he is a great manager in technical terms and he also had a great attitude and behaviour. We certainly do need more similar managers in Iran.

  • How would you evaluate your performances so far this season? Many people compare you to your former teammate and veteran defender, Hadi Aghili. Do you think these comparisons are justified or your style is very different to Aghili’s?

Thankfully when I arrived in Padideh, I received a lot more first team opportunities. Well, generally I don’t think it is right to compare people but I really like Hadi Aghili, I like his football and he behaves appropriately on and off the pitch as I spent everyday for 2-3 years with him at training, and he is one of the better players of Iranian football. But I don’t think comparing is right even if some parts of our game is similar.

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  • How is it working with you current manager at Padideh, Mohammadreza Mohajeri? In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between Padideh and Sepahan in tactical and training side of things?

Working with him is really great, and I’ve learned a lot from him in these 4-5 weeks that he’s been selecting me. The biggest difference between Padideh and Sepahan is mainly in the mentality, character and wanting to win. From the players, the staff to the board of directors, the difference is the belief and mentality that I want to win, the hunger and desire to win the league. Of course there are other factors such as a better pitch and better facilities but mentality is the main criteria.

  • You’ve had a decent start to the season, a win against Tractor Sazi with a clean sheet, a draw against Persepolis away from home. What targets has Mohajeri set for you as a team? How would you rate the team’s potential?

So far this season we’ve had an average start, I can’t say the results are great or terrible. But, our manager is really trying hard to give us a winning mentality and teach us to want to win games and believe in ourselves, that applies to everyone, from players to the staff. I think once that desire and winning mentality really kicks into the team then we have a great potential. I know it may sound ridiculous but with the right character and hunger to win, I think we can be one of the top 4 teams in the league this season. We have some great players, players who have played in the national team and some talented young players so we have a huge potential.

  • You are currently on a training camp with the Iran U-23 national team in Holland, how has the camp been so far? Do you this Holland camp can help on your qualification journey to the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Currently I am with the under 23s in a very very good training camp in Holland, we can play some good games with the top Dutch sides. Yesterday we had a good friendly against one of the local clubs whom we beat 4-0. This is a great opportunity for this group of players to become coherent and prepare ourselves for the west Asian games which is coming up and we are currently concentrating on getting good results in that competition.

  • Iran U-23s are currently 2nd in their qualification group, how would you describe your results so far in the campaign? Do you think with this current team, and in comparison to other teams in our group, you can qualify for the Olympics as the top team in the group?

We can definitely reach the Olympics with this team. The potential and the quality in this team is very very high. We just need to work on our collective game so we can play as a team

  • There has been a lot of criticism aimed at the current coaching staff of Iran U-23s, how is it working with Mohammad Khakpour? Do you think the current staff has what it takes to lead this team to the Olympics?

Unfortunately in Iran it’s become a norm that whenever a manager or a coach is appointed as national team manager, there are people who don’t agree with the appointment and some that are in favour of the new coach. Mostly are waiting for the team to get disappointing results so they can give interviews and criticise the coach. These things are everywhere, but the main and most important thing here is to help each other, set our hearts on one target and help this team to reach the Olympics for the first time in 4 decades. We should not create division into the team, we should all help each other to reach our target.

  • Where do you see your own future? Do you have plans of moving to Europe and developing your career there, or are you comfortable to carry on playing in Iran?

I wanted to move to Europe last year, I even had an offer from a Turkish club and I really liked to come to Europe but it couldn’t happen, so I decided to play in Iran for one more year. After this year, we will see what comes up depending on the offers that come in but I really relish the move to Europe. Yes, I’m young I really want to go to Europe and play my football there so I can come back and help my country and our national team.

  • And lastly, it is considered a dream for every footballer to play for his country, do you believe you can make your way to the senior team soon and help the team qualify for the 2018 World Cup?

That’s definitely true, god willing I will work my hardest so that I can hopefully be a part of the Iran team that reaches the 2018 world cup, and be a part of my country’s defensive line for many years to come. Football is unpredictable and you never know what will happen but I will continue to work hard.

About Sina Saemian

An engineering student in Manchester with a passion for the beautiful game in Iran, from Esteghlal to TeamMelli and everything in between. Avid follower of Iranian domestic football and Middle Eastern football in general.

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