Iran - September 06, 2018 09:00Interview: Hossein ShamsIran can be No.1 in 2020Shams: Iran can be No.1 in 2020 with the right funding but we need a specialist futsal federation

by Doug Reed -

Additional reporting by Steve Harris - Futsal Japan

Hossein Shams is one of the most respected voices in the coaching world and as such was the perfect candidate to lead the World Intercontinental Futsal Cup's first ever Technical Study Group (TSG) in Bangkok. The role of a TSG is to highlight the latest game trends and support its development through analysing matches and training sessions at tournaments. I spoke to the Iranian coach to get his thoughts on the championships and the sport more widely.

”The tournament has been a very high level. I was particularly impressed by Leandro Lino from Magnus who has come as a surprise. A very, very good player in both attack and defence as well as 1v1 situations. I also like Ferrao who is fantastic.” Observed Shams before mentioning how he hopes there will be room for more top teams to participate in the future.

Asked on his thoughts on the role of 1v1 skills in the modern game, he has noticed its reduced presence. “I think previously players were more about technique and skills. In Iran and Brazil we had so many of these players. I think now there is an emphasis on tactics and fitness and less on technique. Those two have improved more than the technical aspects.”

Having coached for nearly three decades, almost from the birth of the sport under FIFA’s auspices, he has witnessed the rising level among all teams during his career. “When I started in futsal it was just Spain and Brazil. No-one knew about the tactics of defence, attack or set plays. Now all the teams have improved and have this knowledge. In the first AFC Championship Iran defeated Singapore 36-0. 36-0! Today that’s impossible. Maybe 4 or 5 nil but nothing more.”

Exploring the reasons behind this evolution he focused on the increased professionalism. “Now there is more training. Previously we trained 3 times a week in Iran. Then it went to 5 or 6. Now every teams trains morning and afternoon. I think this is the difference between when I started and now.”

His distinguished coaching CV includes working for many of Iran’s best clubs as well as the Bahrain and Kuwait National Teams. In 2007 he would take the helm at his own nation and, shortly after, at the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup they were the surprise package and announced themselves as one of the world’s strongest nations. It helped earn Shams the title of the father of modern Iranian futsal back home.

Despite dominating in Asia, before then Iran weren’t considered among the elite as they are today. They had a poor record at the World Cup before 2008 with the exception of the 1992 edition, in an era when professionalism hadn’t yet took hold and the elite game was still in its infancy. In that second ever FIFA Futsal World Cup USA finished runners-up with a squad of indoor soccer players, highlighting a different era when players and teams weren't highly trained futsal specialists.

In the 2008 edition they immediately demonstrated their quality, leading Spain 3-0 at half time in their first game before the defending champions managed to salvage a draw. In the second round they lost narrowly 1-0 to the eventual champions Brazil before conceding a last-minute goal against Italy to make it 5-5 and leave them a single goal short of the semi-finals.

That team was led on the field by the legendary all-time goalscorer in futsal history, Vahid Shamsaee, as well as other world class players such as Keshavrz, Taheri, goalkeeper Nazari and Hassanzadeh who captains the team currently. Now Iran are a well-established world powerhouse, finishing third at the last World Cup, with stars such as Tayyebi, Javid and Tavakoli capable of playing in any team in the world. However, they don’t currently feature in the top leagues as they can earn much more in places like China and Kazakhstan where many have left home for since the crisis in the Iranian economy.

The question arises how Iran has established itself as such a strong nation and the answer is simple. “Do you know that 16 million people play futsal in Iran?” asks Shams. ”I think that’s the highest in the world. So much talent. 8 million play just futsal in schools alone with specialist coaches and schools futsal is crucial in developing futsal. It is very easy to find 14 players from 16 million for the national team.” concluded the current Giti Pasand Head Coach.

At the last World Cup a narrow 4-3 defeat to Russia prevented them from earning a place in the final. Could they lift the trophy in 2020? “If the futsal committee of Iran has the budget for futsal and support from the football federation we can become No.1 in 2020. I think we have a very good chance to become world champions. There is so much talent in Iran. The problem is there is no money.”

He doesn’t believe, in Iran at least, that the necessary funding will come under the current structures. “In Iran if you have 16 million people playing you must have a bigger budget. I think whilst under the control of the football federation it will never change. We must leave the football federation and have a federation specifically for futsal. In Iran this is required but maybe in other countries it isn’t the case. If you have 16 million people, you must have a specialist federation.”

He went on to highlight the importance of funding to develop futsal wherever you are and provided the contrast between how football coaches are paid millions by the federations whilst their futsal equivalents receive relatively little. “In every country a budget for futsal will develop the game. Without a budget it won’t.” was this 5-time champion of Asia’s frank conclusion.

With such a sharp futsal mind and a wealth of knowledge from the last 30 years in the sport we couldn’t leave without finding out his all-time Iranian and World Best V. For Iran he selected four from that historic 2008 World Cup squad with the spots being given to Shamsaei, Masoumi, Keshavarz, Hassanzadeh and Nazariin goal. For the world selection he chose two players who were crowned champions in Thailand in Falcao and goalkeeper Thiago plus their compatriot Manoel Tobias, Spaniard Kike and, of course, there was room for the Iranian icon Shamsaei.

Hossein Shams

Hossein Shams

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