"Why not go to Iran?"
Clemente explains decision to accept coaching position13 February 2008
BILBAO - On returning to Spain from his meeting with the Iranian Soccer Federation, Javier Clemente, formerly coach of Athletic Bilbao, Spain and Serbia, couldn't tell reporters much about Tehran besides his hotel, the Soccer Federation headquarters and "that mall where I had a beer."
The Basque coach, however, did explain his simple reasoning in signing the contract on Monday to become coach of Iran's national team until the 2010 World Cup: "Because Iran came to me, I didn't have a better offer, and why not go to Iran?"
The main contractual snag - that Iran demanded the coach's in-country residence - was reportedly resolved on Monday. Clemente explained, "It doesn't matter if you watch an Iranian league game on the field or on video. If Spanish national coach Luis Aragonés is in Bilbao, he isn't in Valencia, but he has the videos." Clemente, Serbia's coach until he was sacked last year when he failed to qualify the team for the 2008 European Championship, would travel to the country eight to 10 days before games, and says that with Iran, he plans on doing the same.
Clemente also denied that his insistence on residing in Spain was due to the nature of the situation in Iran. "The problem is not about cultural differences. I'm not capable of living outside my country. I don't get used to it, no matter where it is."
Returning from his trip, he seemed set on concentrating on soccer and the uphill climb Iran will face in trying to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the specific reason he was hired.
"What is clear is that Iranians know how to run, shoot and dribble. From there, we've got work to do."
He spoke about the five Iranian players currently competing in foreign leagues, including Osasuna's Javad Nekounam, and his personal goal of giving Iranian soccer a facelift as best he can considering the country's current situation. "You don't have to make yourself crazy, though," he added.
In the middle of the month, the new coach will fly to Iran to start work. He is not worried about the potential culture shock or the politics of the country, he says, but rather simply the reality of the Iranian soccer team.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / EDUARDO RODRIGÁLVAREZ 2008]
Subject: Spanish news