Footy First: Vancouver FC’s New Gaffer Talks Roster, Club Philosophy
Afshin Ghotbi hopes to build a young-leaning, intelligent team that will shape itself quickly on the pitch and catch opponents on the counter.
The newest episode of Footy First, a TSN soccer podcast hosted by Nick McVicar and Niko Giantsopoulos, has unearthed more information about the man tasked with leading Vancouver FC through its inaugural season in 2023.
The Canadian Premier League’s ninth club was unveiled last week, with SixFive Sports and Entertainment also revealing that former Iran head coach Afshin Ghotbi has been named as the club’s inaugural coach.
The 58-year-old veteran coach appeared as a special guest on Footy First, revealing a first look at his recruitment philosophy and, perhaps, what fans can expect to see from the expansion side on the pitch next year.
What Kinds Of Players Is He Targeting?
Ghotbi revealed that he has already been given a list of 43 athletes who are Canadian Premier League free agents, and he’s wasted no time in diving into match footage from these athletes to assess who fits into his system.
Of course, fans haven’t seen what his preferred playstyle looks like yet. He wants to create a team that fits into a quick-moving, shape-shifting philosophy, and he wants this group to also represent Vancouver’s DNA.
On top of this, he states that the club is looking for a certain age group of players, with the club intending to develop them and potentially move them on to Europe when the time is right. Suffice to say, it sounds like this will be a younger-leaning team, and the club’s talent identification for this age bracket is already working at full gear.
“I think we’ve done a really good job of targeting the players we want, and we are in contact with their agents and trying to see if we can get them to buy in to our project and join us,” said Ghotbi on the podcast.
While he didn’t do a deep dive on his tactics, he did get into the character-driven mentality of what he needs in a squad, which he hopes will have a high footballing IQ with enough technical skills to react to changing situations on the fly.
“I always follow a very simple mode when I look for players,” reveals Ghotbi. “First and foremost, talent. Second, we’re looking for character. And thirdly, we’re looking for players with ambition. So if you have two of the three, you have a chance. But if you have less than two of the three, you basically, in my opinion, don’t have a chance to make it at the highest level of the sport.”
He’s going over the available athletes with a close lens, stating there are hidden gems aplenty from coast-to-coast who either didn’t have the proper opportunity to shine, or haven’t been given a chance at a high level as of yet.
What Is Ghotbi-Ball?
While Ghotbi believes that any club in the professional game should be attractive in the way they entertain crowds and collect wins, he’s had a historically strong record defensively. That isn’t to say he parks the bus, but rather shows his careful approach to team shapes and how players act when in and out of possession – hence the need for a high footballing IQ.
“To win games, you have to first and foremost build a great defensive structure and organization. So, a team that can defend from every position and a team that can attack from every position, but most importantly, to keep balance – and keeping balance meaning when you’re attacking, you keep ensuring the numbers behind the ball and in very intelligent positions. When the ball is lost, they’re there for the rebound, they’re there to shut down the counter-attacks, and the swift reactions after losing and winning the ball has always been very important to me.”
It sounds like Ghotbi has a mentality that intends to quickly commit to counters, with the new Vancouver FC head coach hoping to get balls into the dangerous areas without accruing too many passes or slowing down too much in the build-up phase.
Could We See Him Mentor A Young Coaching Staff?
When asked by Giantsopoulos if he has had the opportunity to interact with the local soccer community and local coaches from within the area – some of which may be aspiring to jump to a higher level – Ghotbi revealed he has already had meetings with young, upcoming coaches who were interested in opportunities with Vancouver FC.
For Ghotbi – who says that at 58, he can hope to have perhaps 12 more years in his career – he would love to give back to his new community by handing high-level, professional experience to these local coaches.
“There are things that you can read in a book or things you can watch in videos, there are things you can learn in a coaching course, but to experience it firsthand and having those real moments as a manager when you make mistakes, and you win or lose games, those are invaluable,” he says. “I’d say to share those with younger coaches can really help them develop themselves as the next future managers and coaches and in the country like Canada. Maybe a player can play the game, but a coach can really create a generation of players. I think that’s a really important part of the development of the game.”
Interested fans can check out the full interview with Ghotbi below, with the episode also covering a recap of the CPL Final and discussion on beleaguered CPL side FC Edmonton.
With Vancouver FC set to launch in time for the 2023 Canadian Premier League season, the club has a busy offseason ahead: they’ve got to build up their stadium, build up the playing roster from scratch, hire the rest of the coaching staff and, of course, get butts in seats for the club’s inaugural season.
With Ghotbi arriving as one of the high-level coaches in Canada’s top flight, it’ll be interesting to see if he can fit all the pieces together right from the get-go. He aims to battle for playoffs in year one, and wants to have a North Star Shield in the cabinet by year two.
Source: Footy First