The 13-time record Iranian Champions and one of the most talked-about clubs in Asian Football, Persepolis FC lock horns with FC Goa in a fortnight in the AFC Champions League. Persepolis FC was named after the first Persian Empire’s capital and one of Iran’s historical landmarks, Persepolis. The club emblem pays homage to this historical site by incorporating elements from it. Founded by championship boxer Ali Abdo in 1963, Persepolis plays out of the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
They won their first Iranian League in 1971 after just 8 years into their existence but the club really came into its own in the 1990s. Persepolis FC who were called Piroozi then, went on to win 4 straight league titles from the 1995-96 season to 2000-01 season. They started the 1990s with a Hazfi Cup victory in the 1990-91 season and did the double of winning the league and the cup in 1998-99. The Iranian Pro League, now known as the Persian Gulf Pro League was established in 2001 and Persepolis toppled their local rival Esteghlal (Persepolis FC and Esteghlal play out the fabled Tehran Derby, one of the biggest derbies in Asia) in the final day to win their 8th League title and be the first-ever Iranian Pro League Champions. They have been dominant in the Pro League era, winning the league 6 times. The league title hasn’t changed hands in the last 4 years, with Persepolis successfully defending their league championship from the 2016-17 season and further establishing their dominance by doing the double in the 2018-19 season.
The only feather in Persepolis’ crown in Asian Club Competitions came in the 1990-91 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup competition as they went on to beat Al-Muharraq of Bahrain to win their first major title in Asia. Persepolis finished third, thrice in 5 years between 1996-97 season to 2000-01 season in the Asian Club Championship which has been later continued as the AFC Champions League. From 2001, Persepolis’ involvement in any Asian Club competitions became sporadic and they failed to qualify for any Asian competitions between 2004 to 2008 as the club faced financial difficulties that affected their performances on the pitch. They returned to the AFC Champions League in 2009 after dramatically winning the Iranian Pro League on the last day of the season with a 96th-minute winner in front of more than 100,000 fans. Even though they had returned to the Champions League they didn’t taste much success and were mostly eliminated from the group stages or Round of 16. Their luck in Asian Competitions changed after Branko Ivankovic took over in 2015. The Croatian guided them to a hat-trick of League Championships and then onto the semifinals of the AFC Champions League in 2017 and they did one better in 2018 when Persepolis reached the final but failed to secure the Championship. Persepolis was once again close to the Champions League title as they reached the finals last year but faltered once again at the final hurdle against Korean side Ulsan Hyundai
Persepolis FC is currently managed by former Iranian and club veteran Yahya Golmohammadi. This Golmohammadi’s second stint at Persepolis. Having spent most of his playing days in Persepolis, he was given the assistant manager position in 2012 but a fall out between Manuel Jose (then coach at Persepolis) and club president led to Manuel losing his job and Golmohamaddi was propelled into the driver’s seat. The club did offer him an opportunity to extend his stay in 2013 by giving him a contract of 2 years but he declined. Post his short stay as Persepolis’ boss, Golmohammadi took charge of Naft Tehran and then Zob Ahan before returning to Persepolis as head coach, replacing Gabriel Calderon. Persepolis is currently sitting at the top of the Persian Gulf Pro League after 19 games. They have a slender 1 point advantage over Sepahan who are second and have a game in hand. Persepolis has only lost a single game this season in the league and has also conceded the least number of goals and their watertight defense could propel them to a 5th consecutive league title.
Persepolis FC has a squad brimming with local talents who have been instrumental in their success. When Persepolis takes the field in the AFC Champions League eyes will be on veteran defender Seyyed Jalaleddin Hosseini. The 39-year-old has been a great warrior for the Iranian side and has represented the national side on 115 occasions before hanging up his boots in 2018. Hosseini shot to fame during his stint with Saipa, another footballing outfit in Tehran. He made his AFC Champions League debut with them and then moved to Sepahan, where he won the Persian Gulp Cup thrice in three seasons before joining Persepolis in 2012. He left Persepolis in 2014 to try his luck in Qatar but came back in 2015 to join Naft Tehran and then resigned for Persepolis a year later. His inclusion was instrumental in Persepolis’ success in recent years as they went onto win 4 consecutive league titles and his impact on the team was palpable.
Ahmad Nourollahi has been with Persepolis since 2014 and the midfielder has made around 195 appearances for the club and has scored 16 goals for them. Nourollahi has bagged 6 goals in the Persian Gulf Pro League this season, the most by any Persepolis player. The 28-year-old has also got 2 assists to his name and his performances in the AFC Champions League could be influential for his side’s success. Vahid Amiri would be another player who could make the difference for Persepolis. The 33-year-old winger has featured in all of Sorkhpoushan’s (Persepolis’s nickname which translates to “The Reds”) games in the league this season. Amiri has grabbed 3 goals for his side and has also pitched in with 2 assists. Nourollahi and Amiri are likely to be the aces up Golmohammadi’s sleeve during their AFC Champions League campaign.
While Jalal Hosseini, Vahid Amiri, and Ahmad Nourollahi are likely to be in the spotlight Persepolis FC does have a plethora of Iranian talents who could light up the Fatorda and the Champions League. Siamak Nemati at Right Back has fascinated fans in the Persian Gulf Pro League, with 2 goals and 3 assists this season. Omid Alishah is another local talent, whose playmaking abilities down the wing will be important for the side from Tehran. The winger has already bagged 2 goals and 2 assists in the league and is likely to be hungry for more. Kamal Kamyabinia is another player that is likely to be influential for Persepolis. The 32-year-old holding midfielder could provide the much-needed protection ahead of the back four and his play distribution could make a productive impact.