From Iran to Luxembourg: Mr Mohagheghi talks about his journey through beach soccer
President, investor and occasionally goalkeeper for Real Münster, organiser of training camps in Senegal and, on top of all that, Luxembourg national coach; if anyone lives and breathes beach soccer, it’s Gabriel Mohagheghi.
Originally from Iran, Mr Mohagheghi lead Real Münster to an historic third-place finish in the 2020 Euro Winners Cup, the furthest a German club has ever gone in the competition.
He explained to BSRussia about his origins in the game, his tireless work towards the development of beach soccer, his ambitious plans for the future of the sport as well as outlining his ultimate beach soccer squad…
— Gabriel, how did you get into beach soccer? What fascinated you about this sport so much that you’ve decided to devote all your time to its development?
— I played at a high level as a junior, but then in 2013-2014, I had to end my career due to problems with my knee. So, I decided that I needed to move forward as a coach and entrepreneur after graduating.
I’ve known about beach soccer for a long time since I lived in Iran until I was 14. It’s a very popular sport in my country, and there are plenty of opportunities to practice it.
— How did you come up with the idea to set up your own club and go to the Euro Winners Cup?
— One day, I decided to set my own five-year targets, and every day, I did everything to achieve my goals. Last year, this plan ended. So, I identified a new goal – to be in the world’s top three clubs in the next three years. I’m an athlete, so I understand from the inside what needs to be done, how to organise the team’s work.
We are fortunate to be able to invite Real Münster players from all over the world. If you have good players in your team, you can move forwards faster and take more comprehensive steps towards achieving big goals. Of course, we invest a lot in our club. If you’re investing big money, you naturally want to succeed.
Every year we take part in international tournaments. In recent years, we have managed to play against strong teams, including Spartak from Moscow, which helps us to develop a lot. Our next goal is to win the German National Championship 2021 and be at least in the top 3 clubs at the Euro Winners Cup.
— You are also the head coach of the Luxembourg national team. In football, this country is traditionally referred to as “minnow”. You said that there are many talented footballers in Luxembourg, and that you can create a good team from young players. After six months in the job, have you changed your mind?
— I have gained good experience with Real Münster because I managed to build a competitive team from nothing. Germany is a big country with a lot of footballers. Meanwhile, few people in Germany play beach soccer, as the season is short. It’s hard to compete with 11-aside football. So, it is easier to work in Luxembourg. It is a small country, and if something happens, you will immediately know about it.
There are many football players in Luxembourg, but they don’t have experience playing on the sand. But as a coach, I’m very patient. I give guys time to adapt to beach soccer. Of course, it’s still hard for us to compete with the world’s top teams for now, but they have huge potential with the right approach. Just give it time.
I am very thankful that Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) support me as the Luxembourg national team coach. We agreed that I will present a development plan for the team, and BSWW will provide the necessary assistance. They made it clear that they would be only too pleased for another high-level national team to appear on the world stage.
The national federation helps me to attract young talent to the sport. I had many offers before I became Luxembourg national team coach, but I chose this small country because it is very conveniently located. I can get there by car from Germany in four hours. There is also an opportunity to conduct training camps, there is all the necessary infrastructure. I see the potential for development.
— Recently, it was announced that you are establishing a beach soccer academy in Senegal. Why this country, and what will this academy focus on?
— I always believed that if I can help someone, I will help — no matter where in the world. In 2016, I visited Senegal, and I was very conscious of how people play beach soccer from morning to night and how much they love this sport. But local footballers lack the necessary technique and tactical skills. The Senegal national team is very strong in Africa and practically has no competitors, but that is not enough to reach the global level.
The young guys don’t have the opportunity to train with suitable equipment, with the right balls. I saw this and decided to help. I asked my friends and sponsors to help children do what they love. Senegalese footballers have a lot of potential but few foundations. They cannot see all the possibilities because, unlike Brazilians or Portuguese players, they do not play worldwide. If I can give them the basics, then in the future, the Senegalese players will reach a good level, play in European clubs, and earn decent money.
Also, the presidents of Mauritania, Mali, Congo were pleased that someone is helping African footballers to open the door to the world’s beach soccer. They also supported us our initiative. I am glad that I had the financial opportunity to open this academy.
— Now for a classic question, but since you are also a coach now, we will modify it slightly. Name your ideal squad as a coach and as a player?
— As a coach, I would take our Goalkeeper Jose Carlos. I am sure that in the coming years, he will be in the top 5 best Goalkeepers in the world. The defence will be Ozu Moreira and Filipe from Braga. I will put Pablo Perez and Boris Nikonorov in the attack. I was in touch with Boris, and I wanted to invite him to Real Münster, but, unfortunately, he could not join us due to his commitments to Lokomotiv.
And if we talk about the partners with whom I would go out on the sand, then it would be Mohammad Ahmadzadeh, Jordan, and the Martins brothers. With such a five, we will keep the ball all the time, and the opponent simply will not even be able to trouble me as the goalkeeper!
This article is an abridged version of an interview by BSRussia