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Coach takes over Iranian team

MEN’S SOCCER: Former area coach gets first international head job and is heading team that has had controversy.

June 17, 2009|By Gabriel Rizk

GLENDALE — Afshin Ghotbi is a well-known name for many soccer players from the area.

For more than a decade, the coach ran the American Global Soccer School out of Burbank’s Woodbury University.

Recently, Ghotbi definitely stepped up in the international soccer ranks.

Last month, Ghotbi — a Glendale High graduate — was named coach of the Iranian national team by the Iranian Football Federation.

It is the first-ever head coaching position at the national level for Ghotbi, who becomes the third coach within a month for an embattled Iran program looking to move in a new direction while pursuing a long-shot bid for a 2010 World Cup berth.

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A native of Shiraz, Iran, Ghotbi, 45, emigrated from Tehran to Glendale at the age of 13. He recently returned to Iran in 2007 to coach Persepolis FC, which he led to the Iran Pro League championship in May.

Ghotbi’s name had previously been connected with the Iranian national team coaching vacancy both before the appointment of Ali Daei in March 2008 and when Daei was dismissed shortly after a March 28 loss to Saudi Arabia in a 2010 World Cup qualifier match.

But Ghotbi was again passed over for the position in favor of Mohammad Mayeli Kohan. Having resigned his Persepolis FC post in November, Ghotbi was finally tabbed for the job when Mayeli Kohan resigned after just weeks on the job.

“He brings a fresh outlook on soccer,” said Ghotbi’s longtime friend and former soccer coach at Glendale High, Cherif Zein, who has over 35 years of experience developing players at the club level and currently heads the La Cañada-based Cherif Soccer Foundation. “He tries to coach with the newest innovation, new drills, new movement. You don’t do old stuff.”

Ghotbi played soccer for four years at Glendale High and then at UCLA before returning to Zein’s side and beginning a movement to establish year-round soccer clubs that current local coaches credit with laying the groundwork for the network of club programs that now thrives throughout the area.

“He was always working for me in my summer camps and he wanted to expand the training,” Zein said. “I told him, ‘You’re crazy, they’ll never let us,’ because at that time soccer was [a] minimal [presence].

“He said, ‘No, I want to train all year long.’ So he had a great vision at a young age of what soccer was going be like.”

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