New Iran’s head coach Vladimir Alekno pushed back against the idea that his Russian style would not suit the Asian powerhouse’s volleyball.
Alekno’s American counterpart John Speraw had previously said that the Russian’s philosophy is not the best choice for the Iranian style of play.
“I suggest the American coach to concentrate on his own team. I know how to help the Iranian volleyball and I don’t need anyone’s help,” said Alekno in an interview with the YouTube channel of his current team Zenit-Kazan.
“Of course the Iranian players do not possess the physical strength of the Russians, but they play with higher tempo and pace, thanks to the skipper Saeid Marouf,” added the Russian, who is to fly to Iran in March to start in his new job.
“I’ll put in hard work for Iran as there is no other miraculous formula to reach success.”
The 53-year-old Russian was named Iran’s head coach last November, replacing Montenegrin Igor Kolakovic, who parted ways with the country in February 2020 after leading the country to a second consecutive berth at the Olympics.
Alekno is tasked with steering Iran at two major events of 2021 – the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) and the Tokyo Olympics.
“The idea of participating in the fourth successive Olympics was so exciting for me, when I was offered the Iranian job. To be a part of the Games is a dream come true for all players and coaches,” Alekno said.
Alekno led his country to the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London – having won the bronze in Beijing 2008.
His Russian team also won the gold at the World League, now called Volleyball Nations League, and the FIVB World Cup in 2011.
When asked about his knowledge of the Iranian players, Alekno said, “My Italian assistant Thomas Totolo is closely watching the Iranian league’s games and is providing me with full information of the players in the country, and also the ones playing in the European leagues.
“I worked with Marouf in 2015, when he was playing for Zenit. He is definitely among the world’s top five setters. He is a popular figure in his country and a true leader on the court, which makes him an important player for the team.”
Iran – a quarterfinalist in Rio 2016 – is pitted in Pool A of the volleyball competitions in Tokyo alongside the host nation Japan, Poland, Italy – the silver medalist in Rio – Canada, and Venezuela.
Questioned about Iran’s main opponent in Tokyo, the Russian said, “At the moment, Iran’s biggest opponent is Iran itself. We need to first make a proper assessment of ourselves and make sure everything is at the right place.
“Before we think of other teams, we will have to improve in certain areas to prepare for every opponent.”