His name is definitely familiar to Rumori readers as well as to any average Estonian football fan. Up to one year ago, the dramatic events that involved Tammeka Tartu put Jane and Babak Afshar’s names onto the Estonian headlines. Everyone knows how the story ended: the club was saved thanks to a juridical split that gave life to a ‘new’ club. It was the final act of the Afshars in Estonia as they both returned to take care of their interests in Germany. Babak is still connected with football through his agency, Sports Supreme, and the Rumori’s eye was caught by his appointment as part of the prestigious agency ‘Die Sportmanufaktur’, a new role he recounted Rumori to be very excited at.
We chatted with him to discover what he will be up to and whether this will involve his experience in Estonian football. Obviously, we could not refrain from asking some things about the Tammeka period.
Babak, first of all congratulations for your new duty at Sportmanufaktur. Could you tell Rumori readers what will you be up to within this organization?
Thank you very much. My position in “Die Sportmanufaktur” is to manage player and support in transfers. It starts from scouting, goes over acquisitions up to transfers. My local part is to take care of southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Baltics and the Czech Republic. Last week was a great week as we could sign three internationals from Europe (the names will be announced soon –edit)
As I understand, Sportmanufaktur takes into account your experience within the Baltic states football.
Well of course it helps. But you have to consider what the goal is. It doesn’t help to collect players make them big hopes and don’t fulfil it. You have a responsibility. Also with the clubs who have a strong belief in quality.
A lot of big names represented by Sportmanufaktur, to mention one: Lothar Matthaeus. What means for you to work in a company taking care of the interests of such football personages?
It’s definitely an honour to be part of a team taking care of many outstanding players and coaches. Well one of my direct partner at the moment is Ulf Kirsten (former international with DDR and Germany, a legend at Bayer Leverkusen – edit) . Our priority is to focus on quality. A person like Ulf has so much experience, which is absolutely helpful in daily business. Lothar is one of our coaches. His fundamental understanding and analyses are really extraordinary. It’s a wonder that he is not working for a big club right now. However, that’s in my eyes just a matter of time.
At the same time, you will keep running your agency (Sports Supreme). Can you reveal if there’s any deal ongoing to bring one or more players to Estonia and/or the Baltics via your agency?
Well also my team of Sports-Supreme (3 other people -edit) are joining “Die Sportmanufaktur”. But yes, we have received requests from the Baltics. But it’s a challenge to find the right people for a club in the Baltics. The mentality and the skills, which are in a very big contrast to the salary, are known.
Talking about transfer market in Estonia in general, Karol Mets to Norway was probably the hit move of the season. How do you rate this transfer? Which one could be the next ‘big move’ for you?
This was a great transfer which has been concluded by the by FC Flora representatives. Their contacts to Scandinavia are good and Viking is a club with tradition. In my eyes Antonov, Pikk, Artjunin, Luigend, Alliku and Manucho are the logical next players who could make a bigger step.
Talking about Baltic football and Estonian one specifically. It was not long ago that your tie with Tammeka ended. How do you remind of that period?
Anyway, even if the loss was very painful, the experience was great and to meet interesting persons was a big gain. I am sure nobody had bad purposes; maybe there was a little bit fear, maybe a little bit inexperience. Especially the last half a year when we were running Tammeka, we saw the potential of the club. Many companies were ready to work with us, and here I mean Tammeka with all people included. That’s why Jane (his wife –edit) was fighting till the very end. I still have a big respect for that.
As you might know, the ‘new’ Tammeka managed to score a 7th place during the past season. Considering the young squad and the additional year of experience, do you think they can repeat the exploit during next season? Does anything more than the 6th place sound like affordable?
Yes, and I am pretty much sure. In my eyes, they will reach the 6th place. However, it will be difficult to score higher as the top five teams have other financial and structural advantages. This season was one of the toughest for Tammeka. Preparation time was very short due to the known difficulties and Indrek Koser could use the weaknesses of the other three teams who ended behind them. Therefore, he made a great job and I congratulated him after the last match. I mentioned before Indrek and also Aleksandra Sevoldajeva, they are great coaches who are on top of Tammeka’s pyramid. She had again a big loss of two key players this season and managed again good results. Like every year. In my eyes, Aleksandra could even be a coach of a men’s team with all her enthusiastic attitude and knowledge.
The dramatic end of ‘old’ Tammeka marked the start of season 2014. Is there a message you would like to leave for Estonian football fans who have followed those events?
Well actually the Tammeka family has to apologize that these internal issues went outside. Both sides made big mistakes. I believe we could have done really well, if both parties have pulled the same string. I had the feeling there was never a big trust and that was a pity. Therefore, everybody lost in February. I guess the development throughout the years were not so bad, if you see the marketing activities and public interest. Maybe we were too fast to bring in the professional attitude and so the salaries for players. We believed that by supporting each other within the club we could be an attractive place for players within Estonia by the support of sponsors and investors. The scouting of talents was one of our initial steps. I still see talents playing outside of Tartu and Tallinn if I see Hanson in Pärnu, Teor in Viljandi and Lvov in Narva, just to mention some.
Last but not least. Who’s gonna win Premium Liiga 2015?
At the moment it’s difficult to predict. Sillamäe need to respond on their losses of quality players. Levadia is my number one tip. The strongest opponent will be fc Infonet. Flora has many youngsters in their squad and also Nõmme Kalju, with new coach need to find their style. I am very glad that South Estonia with Viljandi and Pärnu are back on the scene.