What is The International Football Agency (TIFA)
Team Melli Talk: Hello everybody and welcome back to another edition of Team Melli Talk. Your source of latest news of team melli, the national football team of Iran. I am your host Art Eftekhari and I am really glad that you could join us. And for today’s special edition of Team Melli Talk, I am joined by Adel Askarian and Navid Karimi of TIFA, also known as The International Football Agency. Welcome to Team Melli Talk, it is very great to have you on the show, how are we doing today?
TIFA: Great to be here, thanks. Yeah, same here, great to be here and thank you for having us.
Team Melli Talk: Absolutely. Well, let’s get right to it. You know I’ve heard about The International Football Agency before, I’ve done a little bit of my research. But, tell our listeners about your work. I mean, what does The International Football Agency do? Or I want to say, what does TIFA do? Who wants to take this one?
TIFA: I will take this one. Basically what we do is we are a company who provides football training in The Netherlands. There’s our headquarters. We provide those training sessions by two means:
- we have a football testing program and after that we have
- a football development program.
Which basically means we take players from all over the globe as we have a testing program for a week and we have testing programs for two weeks. And in that week players get a chance to convince us that they have the quality to play in Europe. And after that we talk with the players, trainers, and scout to give them a feedback about their strengths and aspects they need to develop over the years. After that, there are two options:
- the player is good enough to play in a European league
if that’s not the case yet, we can provide them with
2. a football development program which starts from two months and up in which they come to The Netherlands and train with the Dutch style and philosophy as the Dutch football philosophy is one of the best in the world.
Right now, we are honoured to have hosted over 60 to 70 players from all over globe of 7 to 8 countries. So, yes, we are doing good.
Team Melli Talk: I like the work you do. You mentioned testing and development with two key aspects, helping footballers, no matter what age they are. And you mentioned the Dutch philosophy of football. Can we elaborate more on what it entails?
TIFA: Basically, the Dutch philosophy has two key aspects which makes our football as great as it is right now, one of it is the soft side, which we call the philosophy and second is more the hard side, which we call infrastructure. Here in Holland we have over 3.000 clubs. Each club has around 100 or more members and they have 5 or 6 pitches, existing out of artificial and natural grass. So the facilities are pretty much here to really develop players on a high level. The philosophy pretty much started in the 70’ with Johan Cruijff, after in the 80’s with Rinus Michels and in ’88 winning the Euro Cup. It’s an attacking philosophy with a formation of 4-3-3 or 3-4-3, with wingers and attacking football. Attractive football with 1 to 2 touches. The philosophy is about how to score a goal by including all the members of the team. So the positioning game starts with the goalkeeper. The goalkeepers here in Holland learn to play football at a same page as a field player. So from the goalkeeper it goes to a defender, from a defender to a midfielder and from a midfielder to an attacker. A lot of movement and positional games. This in a nutshell is the philosophy of Dutch football.
Team Melli Talk: I really like the explanation on the Dutch philosophy. You mentioned attacking football and that is what football fans want to hear about. You make comparisons with the Iranian national team as with Carlos Queiroz it was a defending style, but obviously successful, qualifying for the World Cup two times in a row. But what you are mentioning about the football, this is what I would like to see Team Melli employ. This is obviously not something that will happen over night. But earlier as I heard Navid mention you have footballers from all over the globe coming to the Netherlands, with TIFA, my next question is, why is TIFA so beneficial for your Iranian footballers? What will this do for the future of Iranian footballers?
TIFA: What we do can be divided into two aspects:
- Dutch football philosophy
- program we try to deliver
Program delivered so far successfully of the years is that we bring over players to the Netherlands and provide them with training on the field, gym, and how they should adjust their lifestyle on a young age which they can act on for the rest of their career. This is what our program delivers. Besides that we also do mental training. And what we see is that players from all over the world and especially from the Middle East do need mental training and they need to adjust their lifestyle. This is needed to develop your skill as a player.
TIFA: It all starts in football with a certain problem which creates a demand. Getting back to what I mentioned earlier, Dutch football is strong due to its infrastructure and philosophy as both aspects are lacking in Iranian football. Starting from the national team, we have Queiroz which had a certain philosophy that had to do with defending and trying to counter and now we have a new coach, Wilmots, a Belgian coach that hasn’t been very successful during his career yet as he doesn’t have a clear philosophy. What you can see that will happen is that this happens to the youth as well. The World Cup U-17, Iran as the number one of Asia, has not qualified. Looking at the games you could see that there was not structure or philosophy. So, what we try to do with TIFA in terms of the technical part is to really provide players with experience of what it is to play at the highest level, with the right facilities and coaches and a clear philosophy behind it. We believe we need to this with players who are at a young age. And we have done so with players since they were 13 years old. One of the players we are with since 13, he is coming back next year as he is 16 years old now. So for three years we brought over this player once a year. So what we hope for is that once the boys turn 18, they already have the experience and skill to transfer to a top club in Europe. Our program prepares these boys to get ready for the level they can expect here at top clubs of Europe and hopefully they can succeed and in return turn back to the Iranian national team and increase the level we have at our national teams.
Team Melli Talk: Well I think our listeners like what they hear as we hope to see a change. If more of these players can be tested and developed by TIFA, that will be very beneficial for the Iranian national team as well as becoming better professional football players. So now going into more detail, let’s talk about some of the Iranian talents that have made their way to The Netherlands, to be tested by TIFA. I believe two of these players are named Nima Heydarian and Alireza Rezaei. What can you guys tell about these two young talented Iranian footballers?
TIFA: In Iran there are many academies, some private and some owned by the state. In Tehran there are pretty much two strong academies, which is Saipa FC and FC Peykan, both in the region of Karaj. And then you have the South with Foolad Khuzestan with a lot of good talents and towards Esfahan you have Zob Ahan and Esfehan. So starting with Alireza Rezaei, we scouted him when he was 13 years old where he was playing for Saipa FC as the captain. So far, we have brought him over to the Netherlands a couple of times. A smart midfielder who can be a very good number six. He’s also a member of the national team. Last year he was here and trained with a club as this club really liked him. Our job is to bring him back next year to test him again in order to see whether we can increase his level as well as to bring him to a top club for try-outs. I believe Alireza Rezaei is one of the most talented players we have in Iran right now. Nima Heydarian is turning 17 this year. Last year he was with us for two weeks, he is from Kermanshah. He very much liked the program and wants to develop. So, he came back recently for a couple of months of development program. From day one you could see development as his eagerness is very fun to see. Right now we are in negotiations to see if he can come back to stay for a longer period. Through our program Nima is making his way to Europe for an indefinite time.