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Kovac looking to take Iran men's team to new successes

Slobodan Kovac (centre) is confident Iran has the talent to find further success in world volleyball
Tehran, Iran, May 21, 2014 - Reigning Asian Champions Iran got the better of Australia 3-1 in four practice games in Tehran last week. Iran won the first three games 3-0 before losing a five-setter to the Aussies as both teams warmed up for the upcoming FIVB World League.

Slobodan Kovac, the new coach of the Iranian men’s team, only assumed his post two days after the Australians’ arrival. In his first press conference, he   was keen to point out that he is a different coach from his successful predecessor, Julio Velasco.

“At this moment, my job is not easy, after Velasco, but I am ready to fight and to make it better,” Kovac stated. “I do not think like Velasco. Velasco is one of the best coaches in the world. I try my best, but my mentality is not like him. Every coach has a different style. This is definitely a difficult situation because after him everybody will scrutinize my work and compare it with his performance. I will give it my all. I played here in Iran many years ago. I think I know the mentality of volleyball players in Iran and that’s a good reason to have a better future.”

Kovac went on to answer questions.

Q: You’ve just joined the team, a few weeks before the World League. How do you evaluate the Iranian players? Are they well-prepared?
Kovac: Although I have taken over the team recently, I have been in direct contact with my assistant, who has been leading the players for months under my indirect supervision. I received details about the practice sessions and players, and now I see that good work has been done when I was not here. The players are in good shape and we have the chance to become much better. 

Q: Do you see any big difference in terms of quality between now and when you were here as a player in Iranian volleyball?
A: It has changed so much. I see very good organization, very good players and high motivation. 

Q: When you say “better,” does it mean Iran will be able to make it to the podium in international events? 
A: My mentality is to try hard and fight all the time. I will transfer this mentality to my players. The players are all highly motivated, so everything is possible. 

Q: You won the Olympic gold medal with Yugoslavia when you were a player and know what that feels like. Can you lead the Iran volleyball team to the Olympic podium, too?
A: When I started with Yugoslavia, the country was in an economic crisis. We worked very hard and we won the medal. Iran is big country with so much talent, so we have a big chance. However, we have much work to do before the Olympics.
Q: How much knowledge do you have about the teams that Iran will play in the World League? Is Iran in good condition to play against them?
A: Iran volleyball is very quick. The only problem is that we do not have many players with a strong jump service. The good point is that Iranian players always want to learn. I know this very well from the time I was playing here. 

Q: Libero Farhad Zarif quit playing last year. He said he would come back only after having a discussion with you. Did you finally reach a conclusion about his return?
A: For me, he is a very important player. I have already spoken with him. At this moment he has some physical problem and is practicing under the supervision of a medic and therapist. He was selected as the best sportsman of the year in Iran and for sure we want him on the court. One important player on the court can bring a lot of motivation and power to others. 

Q: You were not with the team until recently. Were you directly involved in selecting the players for the national team?
A: When I signed my contract, the team manager gave me all required information about the players and the Iranian League. Then I discussed things with my assistant, who has been working in Iran for several years and has a very good knowledge of the Iranian players. In the end, we finalized the list together. 

Q: When Velasco left, he believed that Iran volleyball had already reached its maximum potential; do you think the same way?
A: I have to tell you that when I received the offer from Iran, I had a very good offer from one of the best teams in the world at the same time. I chose to come here because I believed we would do something very good. I think we have a bright future with the Iran team. Mr. Velasco has his own opinion. I did not choose Iran because it was my last chance. My work will speak about me on the court and I believe the Iranian team has a big chance to play great volleyball. 

Q: We are just a few days away from World League matches; is that enough time for you to transfer your philosophy to the players? 
A: In my absence, my assistant has done a great job. I believe it’s enough to start playing great. I know that we are in a hard group, but we are ready to fight. 


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