Kolakovic: National Team is for People, No One Owns It
New Iran coach Igor Kolakovic has warned Iran’s senior players that they have no guarantee of a place in his team with the twin challenge of the 2017 FIVB World League and Asian Championship coming up this year.
Kolakovic was given a two-year contract as Iran men’s coach in February, with the option of a one-year extension and he has the task of building on their quarterfinal finish from the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and their fourth-place finish from the 2014 World League.
Nonetheless he has warned many of the players involved in those campaigns that they will have to stay at their best to hold onto their places as the team builds towards qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“You might not see some of the older faces in the team and I will call up any young player who I think deserves a place, national team is for the people and no one owns it” Kolakovic said in his first press conference since being appointed.
“I saw how they did this in Serbia. They were forced to change and bring in new players. I know we have a lot of talented Iranian players and so cannot limit who we use in the team. I’m ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but we will have to work together to qualify. It means we are likely to add younger players to the squad to gain experience, though there will continue to be a core of experienced players, who will pass on their knowledge.”
Rio 2016 was the side’s Olympic debut and in Kolakovic they have a coach who knows exactly what it takes finish with medals.
Under Kolakovic’s guidance, Serbia won bronze at the Italy 2010, FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, silver at the 2008 and 2009 FIVB World Leagues and bronze at the 2010 World League. The also won CEV European Championship bronze in 2007 and 2013.
To develop Iran’s depth of squad the Iran U23 team will train alongside the national team. Kolakovic has also been busy catching up with recordings of Iran League matches, but now that he is in Iran he plans to attend matches in person to gauge the quality of the players at his disposal.
They will have a short rest at the season’s end before they begin their preparations for the World League. They include friendlies against Montenegro, Slovenia and Poland before they take on Italy in their opening pool match on June 2.
“The Iranian League is very strong,” he said. “They aren’t as financially strong as some of the European teams, but it is a very competitive league. I will give players three to four weeks light training after their long league season before they have eight weeks’ full preparation for the World League.”
Kolakovic has appointed Paykan Tehran coach and former Iran player Peyman Akbari as his assistant. His coaching staff will also include Dragan Kobiljski from Serbian club Crvena zvezda, and physical trainer Daniel Misic from Croatia.
Young players joining Kolakovic’s training programme will include Mohammad Taher Vadi, Farhad Salafzoon, Reza Ghara, Pourya Yali, Mojtaba Mirzajanpour, Javad Manavinejad, Saeid Shiroud, Pourya Fayazi, Morteza Sharifi, Saman Faezi, Mohammad Fallah, Masoud Gholami, Ali Shafiei, and Mostafa Heidari. U23 team players Salim Cheperli, Amin Esmaeilnejad, and Javad Karimi are also due to join the senior national team players after the 2nd Asian Men’s U23 Championship from May 1-9 for this year’s edition of the World League.