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Football: Iran’s Majidi eyeing second ACL success, but first with Esteghlal

 

Esteghlal captain Farhad Majidi hopes to steer his side past Thai FA Cup winners Buriram in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals. Photo: WSG.

Esteghlal captain Farhad Majidi hopes to steer his side past Thai FA Cup winners Buriram in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals. Photo: WSG.

 

August 13, 2013: Esteghlal captain Farhad Majidi insists winning the AFC Champions League title with his current club would complete a long and illustrious career, despite already winning the continental title with UAE club Al Ain in 2003.

 

Majidi scored three goals as Esteghlal reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for the first time as they bid to add to their wins in the former Asian Club Championship in 1970 and 1991.

 

Amir Ghalenoei’s side are set to take on Thailand’s Buriram United over two legs, starting at home in Tehran on August 21.

 

Majidi, 37, has made it his personal ambition to lead the Tehran Blues to a third continental title this year, having lost in the 1999 Asian Club Championship final with Esteghlal before winning the inaugural AFC Champions League with Al Ain.

 

“Winning the AFC Champions League with Al Ain is one of the best memories and honours in my sporting career, but winning with Esteghlal would be a lot more enjoyable for me and is maybe my only unfulfilled sporting dream,” Majidi said.

 

Majidi represented Iran from 1996-2011, but missed out on representing Team Melli at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, and said winning Asia’s premier club title would outweigh playing on football’s biggest stage.

 

“If we were able to win this year’s title with Esteghlal, for me personally, it would be more pleasing than playing with Team Melli in the World Cup,” he said.

 

“Esteghlal are a very well known club in Asia. We’re very strong and have had good results in the past editions. Buriram know they’re up against a strong team, but we’re fully concentrated on sealing a place in the final four.”

 

Having exited in the Round of 16 in 2012, Esteghlal topped Group D ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and UAE Pro League champions Al Ain after losing just once.

 

After then sealing an eighth Iranian title, Esteghlal downed Al Shabab Al Arabi 4-2 on aggregate in the last 16, all the goals coming in the first leg before a goalless draw at Azadi Stadium.

 

Next Wednesday, Esteghlal will host Buriram, the Thai FA Cup winners who downed two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan in the last 16 having finished second to K-League champions FC Seoul in the group stage.

 

“I have only once played against a team from Thailand and that was with Al Ain. The team we played against (BEC Tero Sasana, in the 2003 AFC Champions League final) were very strong, but I don’t know much about Buriram,” said Majidi, who is in his fourth stint with Esteghlal.

 

“We’re going to watch their recent matches before playing them, so we can analyse them ahead of the match. We don’t usually underestimate any opponents, but I don’t think we will have a very tough task against them.

 

“We hope we can almost wrap up a good win and qualification to the next round in the first leg in Tehran as we will be supported by our fans at home.”

 

Esteghlal’s latest title handed coach Ghalenoei a fifth domestic success after he won the league with the club in both 2006 and 2009. Ghalenoei also steered Sepahan to the title in 2010 and 2011.

 

“Amir Ghalenoei is the most successful coach in Iran’s football league. He’s had great successes with different teams and has always been a hero in Esteghlal both as a player and as a manager. Now, I am hoping we can win the AFC Champions League under him,” Majidi said.

 

“The AFC Champions League has improved year by year and the teams that have won have been the elite; the real giants of the continent. This year Esteghlal are representing Iranian football in Asia so I hope we can win the competition.”

 

For more information on this year’s AFC Champions League, visit:

www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/clubs/afc-champions-league

www.the-afc.com/en/acl-2013-fixtures

 

 

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