Glendale – Recently I got the opportunity to catch up with Garnik Mehrabian, retired Armenian-Iranian footballer, former assistant coach for the National Team of Iran, and former head coach of Ararat Tehran and Machine Sazi.
Garnik first made a name for himself playing as a midfielder for Taj – today known as Esteghlal – between 1954 and 1963. During his time at Taj he was coached by Ali Danaeifard, a name that is very familiar with supporters of Esteghlal as they consider him to be the “Father of Esteghlal.”
“He was a very honest man and a great coach. Everything I learned in football was because of Ali Danaeifard,” said Mehrabian.
After retiring as a footballer, Garnik continued his passion and became head coach of Ararat Tehran in 1963.
During Mehrabian’s time at Ararat, he discovered famous Armenian-Iranian footballers such as Andranik Eskandarian and Karo Haghverdian.
One thing led to another and Garnik became head coach of Iran U20 in 1973 and became assistant coach of the National Team under Irish manager Frank O’Farrell in 1975.
Team Melli was in dire need of a left back when O’Farrell became coach of Iran but it was Mehrabian who had the solution.
“I told O’Farrell he had to invite Andranik Eskandarian to fix the problem we had at left back. I didn’t tell him to call Eskandarian only because he was Armenian like me but because I knew he was the best option available for Team Melli,” said Mehrabian.
Eskandarian went on to represent Iran at the 1976 Asian Cup where TM finished in first place and two years later he appeared in all three matches for Iran at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
I had a great time talking to Garnik, it was great to hear about the old days of Iranian football and how much things changed over the years.
Initially I was expecting him to talk a lot about his time as head coach of Ararat Tehran but instead he told me that his favorite days as a coach in Iran took place when he managed Machine Sazi in Tabriz.
“I came to Machine Sazi in 1978. The people of Tabriz were great and supported me so much. Twenty-five thousand people would fill our stadium every match.” said Mehrabian.
“We were a young team in the beginning and had to play a friendly match against Taj, a club that had seven members of Team Melli at that time. My players were hesitant but I told them not to be afraid of big names like Hassan Rowshan and Karo Haghverdian.”
Taj ended up defeating Machine Sazi 1-0 but the supporters in Tabriz were proud of their team and Garnik’s men held their heads up high.
As is common with Iranian history and talking about the old days, the revolution changed the lives of many, including coaches and footballers.
“If there wasn’t an Iranian Revolution I would have stayed in Tabriz until Machine Sazi were champions of Iran,” said a smiling Mehrabian.
Machine Sazi are back in the top flight of Iranian football for the first time in nineteen years but currently sit at the bottom of the table with six points after eleven matches played.
Garnik currently enjoys life as a retired football coach living in Glendale, California and wishes nothing but the best for Machine Sazi, Ararat Tehran, and of course the National Team of Iran.
At the end of our conversation Garnik gave me a copy of his football resume and asked me to help him find a coaching job. It was a great experience to talk to Garnik and learn about his coaching days in Iran.
I am not sure what to do with Garnik’s resume but one part of me thinks I should send it to Rasoul Khatibi, head coach of Machine Sazi.