Exclusive Interview: Pouria Jarrahi

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

‘'Hi Pouria, thanks for taking the time to talk to me at TSF today, we don’t get many fitness coaches so I’m really intrigued to chat to you.  You started with Naft Tehran, how was that?”

“When I was working for Naft Tehran FC, unfortunately the team did not have good conditions off the field.  Management, ownership and financial problems caused a lack of proper organization for a team at the Iranian Premier League level.  We had experience and quality players like Mohammad Nosrati, Mohsen Bangar, Ali Ezzati and Ahmad Al-Ne'meh who could help the team, but the problems I mentioned caused great damage to the team and finally with many changes in the technical staff, the team did not have good conditions at the end of the season.  I think, if the team had better off-field conditions for all the coaches that season, the team's results could have been very different.”

“Maybe we should move on quickly to your time at FC Esteghlal Tehran, a huge Asian club with presumably a better structure?

“FC Esteghlal is one of the biggest clubs in Asia as you say.  After Al-Hilal, it is the most successful team in West Asia in the AFC Champions League (equal to UEFA Champions League) and has a lot of fans all over Iran and Iranians living abroad.  Working at the club with that history and trophies was the most important experience of my coaching career so far, which I am proud of.

The best part was participating in the AFC Champions league and having international competition experience.  We were very different from the Naft Tehran Club in terms of conditions and facilities.  Therefore, the expectation was much higher from fans and from the club's hierarchy.  At a club like Esteghlal, only winning every game and winning the title will satisfy the fans.  It was a very special experience for me with all the challenges.

In addition, the experience of working with a player like Ali Karimi was very enjoyable for me.  I believe he is a footballer higher than the level of Asia and it is a unique experience for any coach to work with high quality players.  However, if better decisions had been made in all aspects, I think we could have had a good chance of reaching the finals of the tournament.”

“Such is football Pouria!  What do you make of the job that current Iran coach, Dragan Skočić, is doing, are you a fan?”

To be honest, Dragan Skocic is a good coach, but not for the Iranian national team.  After Carlos Queiroz, we had favorable conditions (financially and credit) to choose a suitable coach but some decisions by some people who used to work at the FA by that time have made the situation of the national team more complicated today.

To qualify for the next qualifying round of the World Cup, we MUST win all four games ahead, so that we have a chance to qualify.  In contrast, in 2018, the dream of advancing to the second round of the World Cup was shattered only by the opportunity that Mehdi Taremi missed in the last minutes of the game against Portugal.  I believe that national team coaches should be a special strategist because they do not have much time to train players like the coaches of club teams (2 months vs. 10 months).  Of course, I would like to hope that Skocic has this ability, but this style of coaching has its own complexities that raise concerns about Skocic and the Iranian national team.

“I couldn’t agree with you more, Pouria.  Today, a national coach is about picking and playing a style on the merits of each game.  We saw Gareth Southgate almost pull off something similar with England at the Euros this summer.  So, to that end, as a fitness coach, do you believe there are specific methods or advice that can help players operate in that way at International level?”

“The physical and physiological demands of football are increasing every day.  Football is getting faster every day and the number of games is increasing.  As this trend continues over the future years, different recovery methods will no longer be the main challenge for coaches, and maintaining the health of the players is their first concern.  So players need to be well aware of the challenges they will face as well as the strategies to deal with them.

For example, The Pacing Strategy * that has been used in soccer in recent years will be more important for players in the future years, and players should be well aware of it.  This is especially important to maintain their performance during the game. But in the case of pre-game my most important advice is to not try any nutritional, exercise or even rest interventions before the game for the first time.

In fact, the most important thing before the game is to not try anything new, because it may have unpredictable effects.  And the logical way is that any nutrition, exercise or rest (for example for better sleep) method should be tested in training a few days before the game day.  In my opinion, this is the most important advice to prepare before the game.”

“Makes sense to me.  I guess being a fitness coach you can apply your methods all over the world, in any league and at any time, would you like to work outside of Iran one day?”

“More than a decade ago, I started my activity in this field and from the lowest levels of Iranian football.  Today, I have experienced participating in the Premier League and the AFC Champions league.  However, I am still interested in continuing to work at the highest level of Iranian football.  But without a doubt, I have the dream of working in another country.  I think that every coach becomes an international coach and more experienced coach by working in another country and another culture, language, etc.. and it's a great success for a coach to be able to work in another country.  I follow this dream and try my best to reach my dream.”

“Good luck to you!  Pouria, it’s been great talking to you today, thank you for your honesty.  Just finally, what will Pouria Jarrahi do to improve football in the future?”

“For an Iranian coach whose country's football does not have a special place in the world of football, ambition is a very challenging issue, but I won't give up.  As one day I dreamed of working at the highest level of Iranian football and I tried for it, today I will try to work at a higher and international level.  I believe that anyone who can achieve the standards of modern football will have more opportunities to enter the bigger world.

As a football fitness coach, I always try to become a professional coach.  Planning, periodization, injury prevention, monitoring, working with GPS and HRV, etc.. are some of the important topics in the field of modern football fitness that I have tried to learn.  Competition in football is very high and a person like me from a country like Iran has less chances, but as I mentioned before, I will never give up and I will fight for this dream with all my heart and soul and to the last minute of my life.  Even if I do not succeed, I won't regret it and I enjoy this effort because it helps me to become a better coach in my field.”

  • Pacing strategies (The Pacing Strategy) in track and field are the varied strategies which runners use to distribute their energy throughout a race. Optimal strategies exist and have been studied for the different events of track and field. These optimal strategies differ for runners in sprint events, such as the 100 meters, runners in middle-distance events, such as the 800 meters or the mile run, and runners in long-distance events, such as the 5000m or marathon. Additionally, pacing typically differs between different styles of races. For instance, in a time trial, where the goal of a racer is simply to run the fastest time, participants will typically employ the aforementioned optimal pacing strategy. However, in a championship race, where the goal of the racer is to win, the pace is typically slow in the beginning of the race and gradually speeds up for a sprint finish, often meaning the race is run with a negative split. Typically, to run a world record, the runner must employ a near-optimal pacing strategy


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.