Four years ago, Afshin Ghotbi was an assistant coach for the Iranian team that was knocked out of the 2007 Asian Cup quarterfinals. On Saturday, his tenure as head coach of Iran will end if South Korea wins the rematch at the same of this year's competition.
His short-term future is assured regardless of the outcome. He's already agreed to take over as head coach of Shimizu S-Pulse in the J-League, which will take the native of Iran to yet another soccer experience. A turbulent 22 months in charge of his native country is just the latest installment of a career that has both angered and energized Iran. He was an assistant coach on the Iran team that beat the United States, 2-1, at the 1998 World Cup.
As an video technician/game analyst with the South Korean national team in the leadup to the 2002 World Cup, he was denied a visa to enter his own country. His success with Persepolis prompted fans to proclaim him "Afshin the Emperor," and after taking over as national team coach in March 2009, not even a failed attempt to qualify for the 2010 World Cup knocked him out of the job.
Three months ago, he masterminded a 1-0 Iranian win over South Korea in Seoul. A repeat would trigger fanatical celebrations and extend for a few days his tenure in the "beautiful mess" that is soccer in Iran.