Dan Gaspar (sitting in the front row third from the left) and the Iranian national team celebrate qualifying for the World Cup. (Photo courtesy of Dan Gaspar’s Facebook page)
By Michael Lewis
Dan Gaspar has accomplished a feat no other American citizen has.
He has qualified for the World Cup a third consecutive time.
True, he isn’t a player, but an assistant coach.
Yet, that is no mean feat at any level or for any team or any coach.
The 61-year-old Gaspar has been an assistant coach on the Portugal (2010) and Iranian (2014, 2018) teams that reached the World Cup.
Gaspar and Iran booked a spot at Russia 2018 over the weekend, besting Uzbekistan, 2-0 in Asian qualifying. The Iranians qualified for the second time in a row, joining Brazil, and of course, the hosts at Russia 2018.
“Team Melli is the only team that has not given up a goal in World Cup qualifications,” Gaspar wrote on his Facebook page. “We have been united and brave during all our competitions. Amazing job by all!”
Actually, Iran’s Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz actually has one up on Gaspar. He became the only coach in history to qualify four teams into the World Cup from four countries. He has guided South Africa (2002) Portugal (2010) and Iran (2014, 2018) into soccer’s promised land.
“He has been my mentor and good friend for 26 years,” Gaspar said on his Facebook page. “Under his leadership and guidance, he has qualified Iran for an historic two consecutive World Cups. His extreme attention to detail, incredible work ethic and his ability to see things that no one else does makes him a special coach and person.”
Queiroz, 64, replaced Eddie Firmani as MetroStars coach in Major League Soccer’s inaugural season in 1996 and directed the team into the playoffs. He also authored Project 40 in 1998, which was a blueprint for improvement to U.S. Soccer.
“He challenges everyone and instilled a contagious team spirit, discipline, humility and commitment to our mission,” Gaspar said. “It was always Team above individual. His focus is on the process of success. I am grateful for the opportunities and incredible experiences he has rewarded me with.”
Gaspar has been Queiroz’s first lieutenant for years. He was assistant and goalkeeping coach with him on the MetroStars and in a similar capacity with Grampus Eight (Japan) the same year.
After a stint as an associate head coach at Central Connecticut State University, Gaspar followed Queiroz to Benfica and Porto, plus many of his other international coaching commitments. He also has coached the University of Hartford men’s team.