PFDC – TEHRAN, Persianfootball.com was able to conduct an interview with Swedish based Iranian coach Kian Karam, who’s latest job is to avoid future Behrang Safari cases or Ashkan Dejagah sagas.
Persianfootball.com: Can you introduce yourself to our readers? What are your occupations now, what were your most important major past positions held in regards to coaching? What education did you enjoy and what coaching license do you hold?
Kian Karam: First of all I want to thank you for all the hard work that you put in at Persianfootball.com. My name is Kian Karam which is more of a stage name since my full name is difficult to announce for Swedish people. To answer your questions in order. I currently hold two different positions. I am the director of development for the Liberian Football Federation but also I am responsible for scouting all Iranian players outside of Iran and reporting back to the head of the Technical Committee, which is Human Afazeli. I also help on my spare time to analyse some teams and players for the Swedish national team manager.
To answer your second question, what I have done before was mostly in Sweden. I started out with youth teams and at the age of 16 I was coaching a senior team in a lower division. After going to three consecutive Cup finals in the world’s biggest youth tournament I was asked to join Swedish Football Federations Football Academy taking place in Örebro Sweden. This was a fulltime elite trainers program where 15 choosen coaches from all over Sweden studied every aspect of the game from 8am – 5pm daily. It was here where I had my UEFA Pro course. After this three-year program I was a coach in second Swedish division, which later on led me to Poland. After four years as coach in Poland both as an analyzer but also individual coach for division two and Premier League teams I started my job with Liberia and Iran. But like all Iranians I was also putting a lot of attention on my academical work, so I have been studying medicine in Sweden and Poland throughout this time and I am also a Dr. med. at this moment, but football is the priority for me.
PFDC: What are your main tasks as advisor to the IFF’s technical committee?
KK: Well, my tasks are divided into two parts. The most important one is to put all Iranian players on our map. We are looking all over the world, and currently we have Iranian players from countries like Chile, US, Japan, Italy, Australia and many many more. What is important here is that the federation knows about them. As i have said in many interviews before, we do not intend to ask all these players to come and play for us but it is important for a federation to have track of the players and keep a constant dialogue for the future so that we dont end up in another Dejagah or Safari story. We have to show all these players that we care about them from early beginning and that we are there to support them wherever they are.
The second purpose of my job is to visit top clubs in Europe and make sure that we get some influences back to your country. It is important to recognize that none of this would have happened without Mr. Afazeli’s effort.
PFDC: Could you mention any names of players that you are currently looking at?
KK: I guess for PFDC readers i can say some names. I am mostly focusing on young talents for the future and as you probably read in the past days we are looking at Amin Nazari of Malmö FF and his older brother Omid Nazari. In my eyes, any players that has represented another country on youth level is worth taking a look at. Aram Khalili has played many games for Norways U19 team and he is another player that we are following. But we are also looking at players with special talent. I found one 19-year-old player in Sweden’s second division by the name of Azmar Jalali whom I believe is the next big thing in Sweden/European football, these types of players are very important for us to keep track on.
Other players just to mention some are Steven Beitashour of San Jose Earthquakes. Aria Jasuru Hasegawa in J League, Ali Manochehri in Chile premier league and many more. My list currently holds 37 players. I will move on next to scout Denmark, Norway and Finland to find the best players there. There are rumours of a 1.92 meter 16-year-old striker in Norwegian first division, that is a powerhouse in the box and it is these types of players that we have to look for. We have also found a 15-year-old, who has signed for Chelsea, and as I said, thanks to Mr Afazeli, the Iranian Federation is really improving in its contacts and network.
PFDC: You visited TPS ÅbO in Finland some months ago, was that also for the Iranian FA?
KK: Yes it was. TPS Åbo has Scandinavias best academy boss. Mr Bo Augustsson has set up the academy in Feyenoord and in many countries in the Middle East . He has been extremely successful, and I was there to get some influences from him and report back to Mr Afazeli.
PFDC: You know Rosenborg Trondheim coach and Swedish FA Manager Erik Hamren well from the time at Örgryte IS, how close is the contact, can you for instance call him up and discuss football matters with him?
KK: Well Erik and I worked together at the same club almost eight years ago and have kept in touch ever since. He is like a mentor to me and of course we do talk about football and matters concerning Iran football team but I also try to help him out sometimes with analyzing some opponents that Iran have played against and scouting players playing abroad, one example being Christian Wilhelmsson of Al Hilal. Erik is a great character and truly humble.
PFDC: Where do you know Human Afazeli, former assistant to Branko Ivankovic and Ali Daei, from?
KK: Mr. Afazeli and I have a mutual friend (who by the way is a member of Persianfootball.com’s community) and the contact started there. Also since I have at several times explained my passion for finding young Iranians around the world, Mr. Afazeli gave me this amazing job to do exactly that. With Mr. Afazeli in the FA the committee now is trying to cover all necessary information needed for development and progress of Iranian football. It is really rewarding and I feel that I can help Iran to possibly find a handful of players that could help Iran in the future. Even if they are not at the quality to play for TM, we can speak to them and maybe they will play for our club teams and this will make our league better in the future. Mr. Afazeli and me speak at a regular basis and try to increase our football knowledge with both of us being Pro Licence coaches but from different continents.
PFDC: You know Stuart Baxter, the Scottish coach who recently has been linked to Iran’s national team job. Is there anything about this rumour?
KK: I met with Mr. Baxter and this meeting was only due to a seminar that he will also hold in Tehran. He has had this presentation in Iceland and lately for the Premier League coaches in England. We were only discussing this idea and there was no talks any position at Team Melli. The newspapers are making a big deal about this since they want to sell issues.
PFDC: You were the one who recommended Erik Hamren to sign Iran’s national team goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati for Trondheim, can you elaborate on why in the end Rahmati rather signed with Sepahan than with Rosenborg? As someone with good overview over Iranian and European football, what do you think are the main reasons of the decreasing number of Iranian players in European leagues?
KK: I dont really wish to get into this, but the main deal here is that the Iranian players in Iran get money that is unbelievable. Unfortunately our players think short term and do not think about the quality of the teams and leagues that they played for. Without mentioning names, we have four or five players in the national team right now that have turned down offers from very big teams in the world, a couple of them playing in UEFA Champions League. Rahmati is a great player and sure, I wish that he would choose Rosenborg and represent us Iranians in the Champions League qualifications but he chose Sepahan and we all need to respect that. This is a big reason for why we dont have players abroad at this moment, but another reason is that we missed out on the 2010 World Cup. After 1998 a lot of players were noticed and in 2006 it was similar. If we can not show our players in these big competitions we have to rely on agents to promote these players and this is not the best way to go.