Mohagheghi: “I am very lucky. There are good people around me, I couldn’t have done it alone.”

An interview with the man who made the development of Beach soccer the main goal in his life.

The President and founder of Real Munster, Gabriel Mohagheghi, is one of those who’s actively investing in Beach soccer development. In addition to the German club, he coaches the Luxembourg national team, opens academies in Senegal and Iran, and helps various clubs organize training camps.

BSRussia talked to Gabriel to learn more about his motivation and future plans.

— Gabriel, how did you get into Beach Soccer? What fascinated you with this sport that you’ve decided to devote all your time to its development?
— I played at a high level amongst juniors, but then in 2013-2014, I had to end my career due to knee problems. So I decided that I need to move forward as a coach and entrepreneur, and after graduating, I started my way in this area.

I’ve known Beach Soccer since I lived in Iran until I was 14, because it’s a very popular sport in my country, and there are plenty of opportunities to practice it.

How did you come up with the idea to set up your own club and go to the Euro Winners Cup?
— One day, I decided to set my own five-year targets, and every day, I did everything to achieve my goals. Last year, this plan ended. So I put a new goal — to be in the world’s top-3 clubs in the next three years. I’m an athlete, so I understand from the inside what needs to be done, how to organize the teams work. That’s something that ex-athletes know best about.

We are fortunate to be able to invite Real Munster players from all over the world, including Russia. If you have good players in your team, you can achieve your goal faster and do more comprehensive steps towards big wins. Of course, we invest a lot in our club. If you’re investing big money, you naturally want to succeed.

Every year we take part in international tournaments. In recent years, we have managed to play against strong teams, including Spartak from Moscow, which helps us to develop a lot. Our next goal is to win the German National Championship 2021 and be at least in the top 3 clubs at the Euro Winners Cup.

— One of the critical factors of Beach Soccer is the theoretical ability of any club to surprise everybody on the short distance tournament by inviting the best footballers. What development model do you prefer to use in the club? Do you invite stars or try to grow your own for your long term goal?
— My model is simple. I don’t work with anyone in the short term. If I start working with someone, I count on this person for a long time. If one of the players got injured, sick, or simply unable to play for any reason, then, of course, we invite someone from the outside.

But we try to keep the core of the team. For example, the goalkeeper of the Spanish national team José Carlos Carrillo has been working with us for a long time. Also, from the Spanish footballers, we cooperate with Pablo Perez. I believe that it is a long term cooperation.

I’m trying to make sure my guys don’t think about petty things during tournaments so that nothing distracts them from football. I organize accommodation in the best accessible hotels, provide the best equipment and food. I’m trying to do my part professionally so that the boys can only concentrate on the game. 

— You are also the head coach of the Luxembourg national team. In classic football, this country is traditionally referred to as “football minnows”. As the head of the national team, you said that there are many talented footballers in Luxembourg, and you can create a good team from young players. After six months of work, did you change your mind?
— I got a good experience with Real Munster because I managed to build a competitive team from nothing. Germany is a big country with a lot of footballers. Meanwhile, few people in Germany play Beach Soccer, as the season is short. There is not enough infrastructure for training, and in general, players prefer classic football. So it is even easier to work in Luxembourg. It’s a small country, and if something happens, you will immediately know about it.

There are many Football players in Luxembourg, but they don’t have experience playing on the sand. But as a coach, I’m very patient. I give guys time to adapt to Beach Soccer. Of course, it’s still hard for us to compete with the world’s best teams yet, but they have huge potential with the right approach. Just give it time.

I am very thankful that Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) supports me as the Luxembourg national team coach. We agreed that I will present a development plan for the team, and BSWW will provide the necessary assistance. They made it clear that they would only be glad if another good-level national team appears in the world. The main challenge is to attract young people to Beach Soccer, to teach them the basics of this sport. The national federation helps me with this. I had many offers before I became the Luxembourg national team coach, but I chose this small country because it is very conveniently located. I can get there by car from Germany in four hours. There is also an opportunity to conduct training camps, there is all the necessary infrastructure. So I see the potential for development.

— The 2020 season was a difficult one because of obvious reasons. On the other hand, it achieved historic success for your club. Before Real Münster, no German team had ranked so high in the European club tournament. How do you analyze the past year with everything that happened to world sports?
— We had a great start in 2020. In the first tournament, we took part in, along with Germany’s current champion, we won. Several guys were unable to attend the Euro Winners Cup, but we got a good upgrade with players from other clubs because of this. Many of them, such as Anton Kniller, Georgy Lovchev, will work with us in the upcoming season.

Of course, when you play in the main European tournament against the Ukrainian “Vybor”, you don’t think you can win 13:1. But when it happened, I realized that my team can do a lot. However, there is also growth potential. Shortly, we plan to become champions of Germany and keep this title as long as possible. It is important that the team can maintain the achieved positions. It seems to me that we are now ready to become a champion. In the previous Final Four, our performance, in my opinion, was unsatisfactory.

In the upcoming season, we will try to participate in as many international tournaments as possible. In my opinion, we are the most playing team in the world (smiles). What we achieved last year is incredible, and we’re going to try to get even higher.

— At the end of 2020, everyone was unpleasantly surprised by the German Football Association (DFB) decision to suspend the German national team activities. How can this affect the development of Beach Soccer in the country?
— The DFB simply did not want to take financial obligations to maintain the national team. Recently it was decided that German clubs will take care of it. We still don’t know how it will be implemented, but last week we had a meeting where the DFB supported this decision. So the German national team will continue to play, but funding for the team will come from other sources.

— Recently, it was announced that you are establishing a Beach Soccer academy in Senegal. Why this country, and what will this academy focus on?
— I always believed that if I can help someone, I will help — no matter where in the world. In 2016, I visited Senegal, and I was very conscious of how people play Beach Football from morning to evening and how they love this sport. But local footballers lack the necessary technique and tactical skills. The Senegal national team in Africa is very strong and practically has no competitors, but there is not enough to reach the global level.

The young guys don’t have the opportunity to train with suitable equipment, with the right balls. I saw this and decided to help. I asked my friends and sponsors to help children do what they love. Senegalese footballers have a lot of potential but no foundation. They cannot see all the possibilities because, unlike Brazilians or Portuguese players, they do not play worldwide. If I can give them the basics, then in the future, the Senegalese players will reach a good level, play in European clubs, and earn decent money.

Also, the presidents of Mauritania, Mali, Congo were pleased that someone is helping African footballers to open the door to the world’s Beach Soccer. They also supported our initiative. I am glad that I had the financial opportunity to open this academy.

— How long do you think it will take for a beginner to reach a competitive level?
— It depends, of course, on talent. You can reach a decent level in six months, and then you can improve your skills through practice. But I’ve had football players who couldn’t adapt on the sand for several years.

Beach Soccer is a simple sport compared to classical football. Due to the number of players on the pitch, there are fewer possibilities of interaction between players. These schemes are easier to learn. But, as a coach, I have to have the patience to convey everything to the players. I also need each player to work in various positions since utility is very important in our sport. The field is small. That’s why you need a footballer to be useful in every position.

Competitiveness is also essential for growth. So I was the first in Germany who invited top-level footballers to my club so that others would see how to play Beach Soccer and progress themselves.

— What else would you highlight as essential aspects of coaching that help you?
— I’m working with a local institute in Münster, studying a lot of information about Beach Soccer. I’m even trying to write something myself. I recently opened an academy in Iran, which will begin to work in 2022. It will probably be the largest beach sports academy in the world. I am fortunate that there are good people around me who listen to me and help. I couldn’t do it alone.

— You played as a Goalkeeper who, in modern Beach Soccer, became a key figure on the pitch during the game. How much does this help you in coaching now?
— In fact, I played in all positions, I know from the inside the responsibilities of each role. But the Goalkeeper experience really helps me a lot. I understand how important the Goalkeeper’s footwork and how it affects tactics. That’s why I want to have in my teams a Goalkeeper who knows how to control the ball to have a numerical advantage in attack.

— In 2021, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup will be held in Moscow. Will you follow this event? What are your expectations? Are you going to visit the capital of Russia in person?
— No doubt I’ll be in Moscow. You can’t miss this. The World Cup favourites for me are the Russian national team because, in your country, there are all possibilities to win the home Mundial. But anything can happen in one particular tournament. Traditionally, the Portuguese and Brazilians are strong, but I still consider the Russian team a big favourite.

— How important will it be for all Beach Soccer to have fans in the stands during the World Cup?
— When you are playing with spectators, the fans’ support has a massive impact on the players. It can be both motivating and demotivating. Without crowded stands, the quality of the game becomes completely different, it goes down. So it is crucial for Football players and for the Beach Soccer itself to have such an atmosphere.

— Our traditional question, but since you are also a coach now, we will slightly modify it. Name your ideal squad as a coach and as a player?
— As a coach, I would take our Goalkeeper Jose Carlos. I am sure that in the coming years, he will be in the top 5 best Goalkeepers in the world. The defence will be Ozu Moreira and Felipe from Braga. I will put Pablo Perez and Boris Nikonorov in the attack. I was in touch with Boris, and I wanted to invite him to Real Munster, but, unfortunately, he could not join us due to his obligations to Lokomotiv.

And if we talk about the partners with whom I would go out on the sand, then it would be Mohammad Ahmadzadeh, Jordan, and the Martins brothers. With such a five, we will keep the ball all the time, and the opponent simply will not even be able to disturb me (laughs).