- Bashar Resan has helped Persepolis reach the AFC Champions League final
- He discusses opponents Ulsan and a potential game against Bayern Munich
- The Iraqi also has an eye on Qatar 2022
When Iraq midfielder Bashar Resan arrived in Tehran in the summer of 2017, he can scarcely have imagined he would contest two AFC Champions League finals with Persepolis in three years.
The first of these came in late 2018 but ended in heartbreak for the Red Army, who lost 2-0 on aggregate to Kashima Antlers. For Resan and his team-mates that initial disappointment became a source of motivation to continue their domestic successes. He then went on to win the Iranian League three times in a row, before leading his team to the final of this year’s Champions League. This coming Saturday, the Iranian giants take on Korea Republic’s Ulsan at Al Janoub Stadium in the Qatari capital, Doha, to decide the continental championship.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Resan revealed how Persepolis became a force to be reckoned with in IR Iran and Asia. He also singled out the team’s former coach Branko Ivankovic for his vital contribution to this success.
"Credit must go to coach Branko, who built a team with a champions mentality," Resan said. "Despite not having the most gifted individuals and losing key players over the last four years, the team never let this affect performances. Even this year the coach debuted five new players in the Champions League, which proves just how strong the squad is."
Having lost the 2018 final and exited last year’s edition at the group stage, Persepolis’s campaign this year seemed to have ended prematurely after the tournament was suspended for nearly seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking of the team’s disappointment two years ago, Resan said: “We wanted to win the title in 2018, but luck wasn’t on our side.”
Asked about the difficulties his side had faced en route to this year’s final, he explained: "We’ve had a tough campaign and making the final has not been easy, particularly after starting badly and picking up only one point from our first two games.
“Things changed for the better after it was decided to play all the knockout games in Qatar. We turned things around despite going up against very strong sides from West Asia. Having to play a match every three days was very difficult too, but we’re now one game away from being crowned Asian champions."
Resan and his team-mates will face a real test when they take on Ulsan, the only unbeaten side in a campaign that saw them eliminate East Zone favourites Vissel Kobe of Japan in the semi-final.
"Ulsan are a very good and tough team," he said. "We watched their game against Vissel, who themselves came close to winning, but they spurned a lot of chances and Ulsan managed to prevail.
"Like all East Asian teams, Ulsan have players with pace, strength and tactical discipline, and they’re certainly not in the final because of luck. The decider will be difficult because it will be settled over one 90-minute game, and the team that makes fewest mistakes will win."
Resan eyes Bayern and 2022
As well as being crowned continental champions, the winners will represent Asia at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™, something Resan feels will motivate his side even more in their quest for the title.
"Playing at the Club World Cup is an additional incentive for both teams and especially for us," said the player who will celebrate his 24th birthday just three days after the Champions League final. "It would give us a great opportunity to play against big sides like Bayern Munich and face global stars, something our fans dream of.
"The fact that Qatar will be hosting the Club World Cup and then the World Cup in 2022 is special for me, because I’ve played at a number of stadiums that will host games at the tournament. The organisation was exceptional, and the stadiums were fantastic. I personally hope I’ll have the opportunity to play again at these venues in two years’ time with the national team."