Iranians are used to seeing their football players joining clubs in major European leagues, but a head coach at the helm of a well-known European side was what the country’s fans were craving for years.
Clubs in the Bundesliga, Germany’s premier football league, were among the very first European teams to trust Iranian football players. Not a long time has elapsed since Iran sent its first football players to the Bundesliga clubs, and now the German league has given the former Iranian-German football player Alexander Nouri the opportunity to gain worldwide fame as Werder Bremen’s head coach.
According to a Farsi report by the Vaghaye Ettefaghieh newspaper, these days, two young coaches have attracted all the attentions in the Bundesliga. The first one is the 29-year-old German manager of Hoffenheim Julian Nagelsmann whose side have achieved spectacular results in the current season (2016-17) and stand third in the Bundesliga table with 51 points from 28 matches.
The second one, however, is the retired Iranian-German footballer and current head coach of Werder Bremen Alexander Nouri, who is of greater importance to Iranians and more attractive to them than Nagelsmann.
He was appointed as Werder Bremen coach a few months ago, when the crisis-hit team were struggling in the relegation zone. Nouri helped them climb to the 10th position in the table with 36 points and, given the slight point-difference between the teams sitting in the middle of the table, they have the chance to book a Europa League berth. The question is how Nouri managed to save the veteran team from a disastrous finish in the present season of the German league.
And Suddenly Werder Bremen
Nouri was born in Buxtehude, a town on the Este River in northern Germany, to an Iranian father and German mother. His father is an Iranian native who was born in the city of Rasht and grew up in Tehran.
During 1998-2001, he played for Werder Bremen II. In 1999, he was transferred to the club’s first team but did not find the opportunity to be in the team’s line-up in any of their matches. He, then, was transferred to US Major League Soccer club Seattle Sounders. In 2001, he returned to Germany and joined the Regionalliga, the fourth tier of football in the German football league system, club KFC Uerdingen 05.
In three seasons, he played 89 matches for the German team and scored eight goals. In 2004, he joined Regionalliga Nord – the fourth tier of the German football league system in the states of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen and Hamburg – club VfL Osnabrück and played for the team for four years, scoring eight goals in 85 games.
He played for Regionalliga Nord club Holstein Kiel during 2008-10. Finally, in 2010, he joined VfB Oldenburg, a German association football club based in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. This was the last team the Iranian-German football player played for.
He started his coaching career as an assistant in his last club and in 2013 was appointed the team’s head coach.
A year later, he joined Werder Bremen’s coaching staff as an assistant. During 2014-16, he coached Werder Bremen II and obtained good results with the side. Nevertheless, Werder Bremen started the 2016-17 season with the Ukranian manager Viktor Anatoliyovych Skrypnyk. They conceded a bitter 0-6 defeat to Bayern Munich and moved to the bottom of the Bundesliga table from the very beginning. Although Werder Bremen continued their losing streak for another two weeks, what led to the sacking of Skrypnyk was his side losing to Sportfreunde Lotte, a third-division team, in DFB-Pokal, German knockout football cup competition.
Following the fiasco, Werder Bremen president and chief executive Klaus-Dieter Fischer fired Skrypnyk and appointed Nouri at the helm of the club temporarily. Werder Bremen lost their first match with Nouri as their head coach but managed to power past Wolfsburg and win their first three points.
Next week, Nouri’s side drew with SV Darmstadt 98 to be able to leave the relegation zone thanks to the four points gained from their previous two matches. What marked Nouri’s most impressive achievement in Werder Bremen was the Die Grün-Weiben (the Green-Whites) 2-1 victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the seventh week. Following the great victory, the club’s president officially named Nouri as the team’s permanent head coach.
From Fear of Dropping to Lower Division to Europa League Berth
Nouri’s tough days began after he was appointed the club’s permanent head coach. Werder Bremen’s string of defeats in a number of consecutive matches raised doubts about the coach’s abilities. In fact, since the very beginning of Nouri’s appointment at the helm of Werder Bremen, there were critics voicing doubt about Fischer’s decision. However, right when the team were apparently experiencing some of their toughest days, Werder Bremen obtained a couple of good results to kindle hope in the hearts of the fans and club’s directors.
At the end of the first half of the season and the beginning of the second one, Werder Bremen, however, conceded a number of defeats in the German league. Nevertheless, their overall progress was quite visible. After all, losing 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, when they were piling up points at light speed scoring more than two goals in each match, were not disastrous results. As time passed, Werder Bremen’s results improved, with their best being obtained in the 25th week when they thrashed RB Leipzig, currently second in the table, with three goals. Werder Bremen snatched a 2-2 draw against their hosts Eintracht Frankfurt in their latest match – week 26 – under Nouri which was played on Friday (April 7). In their past 25 matches under Nouri, Werder Bremen have notched up 10 victories, snatched four draws and conceded nine defeats. The team’s results are apparently satisfactory to the club’s directors, president as well as fans.
Thrilling Like Nouri
In addition to the team’s good results, a number of other factors are also effective in Nouri becoming a main subject for German media. Nouri’s behaviour and moves in the technical area during the match is very interesting. The coach’s emotional reactions during his side’s games have caused many not to notice or regret the absence of former Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, who has moved to Liverpool, in the present season of Bundesliga. However, Nouri’s reactions and moves have their own critics.
Following Werder Bremen’s draw against Eintracht Frankfurt, German media lauded Nouri, writing he has great ambitions as the head coach of the German club and has devised plans to book a Europa League berth.
Even, the well-known German head coach Thomas Schaaf, who has coached Werder Bremen for more than 14 years and steered the team to Bundesliga championship in 2004, has praised the Iranian-German coach, saying, “Alexander Nouri does his best to guarantee his side’s success. This is crystal clear. He uses his body language in the technical area very well during the game. However, I warn him to avoid expressing too much excitement. The team’s self-confidence has been obviously boosted. It is quite evident that Werder Bremen is not comparable to what it was at the beginning of the season.”
Schaaf, who is quite popular among Werder Bremen fans, added a team is required to remain calm and work hard and carefully to be able to go through to the Europa League.
“It is not bad to be happy and satisfied with the team’s present success, but considerable effort is required to secure its continuity. This is a very big game and a long way with defeats waiting in ambush. Concentration is the key to the continuation of Werder Bremen’s successes.”
Perhaps, following Nouri’s recent successes and achievements many in Iran are now thinking to bring him back to the country and use his expertise. However, given his recent results and brilliant performance in Europe, he has become even more well-known in Germany and will, most probably, continue his career as a head coach in Bundesliga for many more years. At present, he does not seem to be thinking about working in Iran.