By Farrokh Hessabi

Coronavirus has taught us all humans are equal: Branko Ivankovic

May 26, 2020 - 14:34

TEHRAN – Former Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic says that all humans regardless of color, race, gender, national origin, religion, and political beliefs must join hands to fight Covid-19.

Ivankovic’s Persepolis stood on an unprecedented position, winning seven trophies in three successive years.

The Croatian coach won Persian Gulf Pro League in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, Hazfi Cup in 2018-19, and Iranian Super Cup in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Now the head coach of Oman national team, the 66-year-old trainer, spends time in Croatia because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months, Branko and his assistants' complaints against Persepolis to FIFA for receiving their unpaid salaries has been widely discussed in the Iranian media.

In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, the man known as “the Professor”, talked about the life post coronavirus, what he has done during the lockdown and about Persepolis and their fans, special thanks to Reza Chelengar, for making this exclusive interview possible.

Question: Your photos with a completely white beard that was shared on social media, caught the attention of many people in Iran. Is it for handsomeness or just a sign of aging?

Answer: Since the whole world, including my country Croatia and my hometown Varazdin, were quarantined during the pandemic coronavirus outbreak, I also decided to take a break and stay at home as much as possible, except for emergency matters. So, I didn’t go to a barbershop and even didn’t shave my bread off. That’s the only reason.

Q: How do you see football after coronavirus?

A: For more than two months there were no matches and no group training for any football player around the world. All the competitions including international, continental, and domestic matches were suspended. Because there is no training, problems appear for footballers and they may lose some of their qualities for a short-time period. If I don't want to say chaos, I have to say it will create a kind of disorder in the football world. All the athletes, including football players and coaches, try to find the best way to get rid of this situation. This, of course, is possible when this pandemic disappears or diminishes. Unfortunately, people in all countries are affected by this pandemic now and they feel it in their life.

Q: What was the main lesson you learned from the coronavirus crisis?

A: Generally speaking, everyone understood that the global community, regardless of color, race, gender, national origin, religion, and political beliefs should join hands in fighting Covid-19, not only verbally, but also practically, and even emotionally, to help each other. All humans are equal. People must still practice social distancing and protect vulnerable groups. The death toll rate must decrease. The coronavirus crisis showed that we need solidarity, and this global solidarity was finally created. Therefore, the most important lesson was that this solidarity must always be maintained and continued.

Q: As a professor of football, what’s your solution for the resumption of football in a way that avoids endangering players' and staff’s health and at the same time to keep football as beautiful and exciting as before?

A: From my point of view, during the outbreak of the virus, the most affected people in sports and football are the spectators and football fans. This is a reality. So, when we want to hold the competitions, our number one priority must be the health and safety of the fans and to remove the danger from them. Football is played to delight supporters and they are the first and foremost motivation of holding football matches around the world.  With their joys, encouragement, and sometimes their anger and unhappiness, they build momentum in the stadiums. But it must be accepted that in the upcoming days and months, the football matches will be held without spectators, in the empty stadiums. This can create a sad situation for the whole football family. Regarding the players and technical staff, they must follow the necessary health guidelines as much as possible to avoid creating danger for themselves or for other players on the field.

Q: What have you done personally during lockdown days?

A: I had the chance to launch a sports medicine center in my hometown a few years ago. This center had reached its peak before the coronavirus outbreak suspending all the sports activities. So, we were forced to close it for a while. But I took the opportunity to repair and complete this center along with my son. At the same time, we used the facilities there to strengthen our physical condition and keep our body and our morale strong through sports. I also spent the rest of my time studying the latest development in modern football, in terms of sports medicine, coaching, and structure. I tried to make the most of this time.

Q: And finally, if you would like, please talk about the problem with Persepolis regarding your unpaid money.

A: For four and a half years, I had a very beautiful and memorable time with the Persepolis fans. They gave passion and excitement to me and my staff, and we tried to respond to their kindness with our efforts and the trophies we won. This cooperation was so beautiful that it brought almost all the good things to Persepolis and their unique fans. But at the same time, we were four and a half years away from our families, and that created a lot of hardship for us. We gave up many of our personal activities in our country, Croatia, so that with all our focus and energy on Persepolis, we could achieve such successes in Iran. We hoped that what was signed in the contract between us and the managers of Persepolis would be observed, as it happens all over the world. But unfortunately, we noticed that the club was suffering from financial indiscipline, and the officials could not implement the things they had promised on paper. Unfortunately, they did not provide any conditions for paying their financial obligations. They either didn't want to or couldn't pay, and we had to file a complaint at FIFA to receive our wages. I had to do that. I love Persepolis and always wish them success in domestic and international competitions.

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