I hope you are enjoying your Thursday. Welcome back to a brand new episode of Ask Ash, where I ask WatchMojo Founder and CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan on various topics, ranging from what is going on in the news, to career advice for students and entrepreneurs.
Today, we are taking a different route. For those who do not know, Ash is a huge fan of football and is one of his favorite hobbies outside of work. As the Group Stages at the EUROS are wrapping up, and the remaining 16 teams are preparing for the knockout stages, I wanted to learn more about how he came to love football, and who he thinks will win the EUROS this year.
1) Who is your favorite football club and national team?
I was born in Iran in 1978, moved to Spain when I was five, and then grew up in Canada. So it’s complicated! When we arrived in Spain in 1983, the country had just hosted the World Cup in 1982, I would see the stickers still up everywhere and thought they’d won, when in fact Italy had won.
I have fond memories of Real Madrid but when I returned to Spain in 2005, I attended an FC Barcelona match – it’s hard not to feel euphoric at the Camp Nou. Both clubs have fielded tremendous teams so believe it or not, I am one of the few people who legitimately like both clubs. When they go head to head, I just want to see a good competition, which I know may not make sense to fans of either club! I’m so busy that I can’t watch every Champions League match, but I make a point to watch the final.
Nationally, you can imagine that while I like to see Iran and Canada do well, I’ve always rooted for Spain even when they were perennial underachievers for most of my life, until that illustrious run from 2008 to 2012 when they won a Euro, then a World Cup, then the Euro again. That was a truly magical run. In fact, 2008 marked the birth of my first daughter, so when I took parental leave in June, I was able to watch every single match. It was honestly one of the greatest periods of my life though I won’t say if it was due to the birth of my daughter or seeing Spain finally conquer it all on the world stage! But that said it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy watching other clubs whether it’s Germany, France, Brazil, Netherlands, or any team that plays the beautiful game the way it was intended to be played. I like the storylines, I like the players, I like how the world stops, comes together, and feasts its eyes on these tournaments.
2) Do you play football? If so, what position do you play?
I do! I play the striker position and am actually pretty good at finding the net, averaging 2 goals per game when playing 11×11 and over 3 when playing 5×5/7×7/9×9 indoors or outdoors, but this is all in friendlies! While there are always some insanely skilled players on the pitch, if I played with a full squad of elite players, I’m pretty sure I’d be easy to defend… but more importantly, the teams I have played in over the years probably have won over 90% of the matches we’ve played in.
I love it and I would say there’s nothing like chasing down a ball, out-dueling the defenders, scoring, and winning. There may be a bit of a parallel between being a closer in business/sales and a striker in soccer… but there’s no position like it in sports: it’s not like a quarterback in football, pitcher in baseball, center in hockey, etc. The closest position is probably a wide receiver, even Jerry Rice would be useless without Joe Montana or Steve Young feeding him the ball. But while many viewed Jerry Rice as the greatest athlete to play football, in soccer, the striker is not usually the best player, he’s just the best finisher (the best players are generally midfielders who can really control the game). For example, I’d say the best players on my current team are either our center-back or one of our midfielders who just seems to have the ball tied to his feet! Their skill level is off the charts… they make my job easy. Mind you, our team is blessed with players who can score… But, I also understand that finishers are valuable in professional leagues, but by the same token, the caliber is so high that it’s really not only about talent, but regiment, training, doing the little things in practice – frankly, when I was young, I was never one to focus on one thing.
A striker is a bit of a paradox: without a great team, you are pretty much useless and may not touch the ball often. However, once it comes to you or you chase the ball down, you can make magic happen. I was never the best dribbler, nor did I have the strongest shot, but starting to play soccer very late (in my early 20s), it’s a big net and I just managed to put the ball in the net at a torrid pace.
In 1986, I vividly recall seeing the World Cup Final when Maradona’s hand of God goal clinched it for Argentina. I recall in 1990 how my high school classmates were excited when the World Cup kicked off… but – and this may sound blasphemous – early on I found soccer a bit boring! Sometimes I do wonder how far I could have gone with proper coaching and development, which takes me to the main points I want to make.
For one, in sports, I really think that talent is secondary to commitment, sacrifice, dedication, and discipline. You really have to shut out everything else in your life to be one of the few who makes it as a professional. In business, you have to commit and persevere, but we’re talking about different orders of magnitude because there are finite slots in sports, but not in business. You hear of some American football players who start late and their physicality is so off-the-charts that they can make up for the lost time, but with soccer if you’re not being coached and working on the mechanics, it’s pretty much impossible.
Second, entrepreneurs tend to do their own thing because others don’t give them a fair opportunity; in sports, you are at the mercy of coaches, the system, and there’s a lot more politics and noise.
Third, you have to be aware and go for it. Moving from Iran to Spain and then Canada in the span of a year at a young age, and then adjusting to a new country, I didn’t play organized sports. I joke that as a second child, my older brother was the one who was enrolled in all of that! By the time I was ten, I’d become hooked on hockey which was a much faster-paced sport. I was a great stick-handler and would score a ton of goals when we’d play floor hockey or roller hockey, but I didn’t start skating early enough, so I didn’t really pursue that. I would play a bit of basketball or American football for fun and was fairly good at every sport, when we’d play soccer I recall one time scoring six goals but as varsity sports aren’t as omnipresent in high school in Canada, it never dawned on me to pursue it. Mind you, I was a “dreamer” until the age of 20, and then a “doer” from 21-40! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, that is why I love entrepreneurship: you can start later, but it’s never too late. In sports, if you’re not really into it early on, it’s pretty much impossible. Soccer has definitely proven to be a great manager of stress, anxiety, and yes, anger… so it’s a great balancing act with my main calling, which is that of an entrepreneur.
3) Who do you think will win the EUROS this year?
It’s always tough to predict because in knock-off stages, anything can happen.
Italy has always been a stalwart defensively but been challenged offensively. This year they are on fire scoring a ton of goals. They look good.
Germany is cool, calm and collected, but I don’t think they have the striker needed to break through. They’re never out of it, though.
While Belgium is ranked #1 in the world standings, they remain a dark horse until they can prove to win on the biggest stage.
You can never bet against Ronaldo, so you can’t rule out Portugal.
But depth matters, so France is likely the favorite. I can see them winning it this year and making a run in Qatar next year… reversing Spain’s Euro/World Cup/Euro run with a pair of World Cups and a Euro in between… but, we’re getting ahead of ourselves!
Here is a video from ContextTV that discusses how to be successful in sports:
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash