'You haven't seen the best of me yet'
Ali Karimi's homepage is still something of a closed book to all non-Persian speaking fans. The site at www.alikarimi8.com contains reams of information regarding Bayern's exciting summer signing, but is presented exclusively in the player's native tongue for the time being.
However, Karimi is planning to launch German and English versions of the site in a bid to help his growing army of European and worldwide fans. fcbayern.de chose not to wait and sat down with the 26-year-old for an in-depth interview. Speaking through his interpreter, Karimi talked about himself, his new life in Munich and what he intends to achieve at Bayern.
Interview: Ali Karimi
fcbayern.de: Good morning Ali, we've just heard you greeting the stewards who mind the dressing rooms with a cheery "Hello" in German. How are you coming along with the language?
Ali Karimi: "I can manage a few words of greeting, but not much else. I have to try and increase the number of German lessons I take, but what with training and playing, I haven't had a lot of time as yet."
fcbayern.de: It obviously hasn't affected the instant understanding you've built up with your team-mates out on the field. Did you honestly think you'd settle so quickly at Bayern?
Karimi: "I'm a professional, so settling down as fast as possible in a new environment is part of my job. I'll admit it was a little difficult for me right at the start. But the team, the coach and everyone at the club have made me feel exceptionally welcome, and that's helped me enormously. I'm genuinely grateful for that."
fcbayern.de: Do you still have room for improvement? Can you play even better than what we've seen already?
Karimi: "Of course I can. I have to keep working on my game, put in even more effort, and I still need more experience. You definitely haven't seen the best of me yet."
fcbayern.de: You opted for the squad number 8. Why?
Karimi: "I was born on 8th November, 1978, I've always had the number 8 at previous clubs and for the national team, and I hope it will be my lucky number at Bayern. I'd like to think I'll be a good number 8 for this football club."
fcbayern.de: Felix Magath has fielded you in a number of different positions. Is there one you favour?
Karimi: "I'm a midfielder, and I've mainly played centrally in the playmaking role so far. But at the end of the day, the coach picks the team and he's the best judge of my strengths. I'll always do my best in whatever position I'm asked to play."
fcbayern.de: The competition for places in midfield is exceptionally tough this season. How do you get along with your midfield rivals?
Karimi: "I'm not having any kind of problem with anyone in the dressing room. We all get along well as team-mates. Obviously, you know you're in a battle for places when we train, but we all respect each other, and we're all working to make this a successful club."
fcbayern.de: This is your first spell outside Asia. What are the biggest differences?
Karimi: "The Bundesliga is one of the world's top leagues, so the differences are huge. It starts with the administration, planning, training facilities, and all of this is first class at Bayern. There's no comparison with my previous clubs really."
fcbayern.de: Why did you decide to come to Bayern? Other clubs were interested in you as well.
Karimi: "I had a number of interesting offers during the four years I spent in Dubai, but none attracted me as much as the one from Bayern. I always said when the time came to switch to Europe, it had to be to one of the leading clubs, and that's Bayern. After the firm offer arrived, I didn't even have to think. I came to an immediate decision."
fcbayern.de: Are there more Bayern fans back home nowadays?
Karimi: "Bayern had plenty of Iranian fans already, as Iran internationals Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian played here. Naturally, more people are watching the matches now. Every Champions League fixture will be shown live on Iranian TV, and we can watch the Bundesliga too, especially the matches featuring Iranians."
fcbayern.de: What are you finding to do in your free time?
Karimi: "I like going to the city centre, doing a bit of shopping. But I spend most of my time looking after my physique. I want to be in the best possible shape for my work, and put on good performances in matches and training."
fcbayern.de: Has your family arrived in Munich yet?
Karimi: "Not yet. I'm expecting them in four to five weeks. So for the time being I have a very, very expensive phone bill (laughs)."
fcbayern.de: The World Cup takes place in Germany next year. Iran have already qualified. What can you achieve at the tournament?
Karimi: "It's hard to make predictions at this stage. I hope our association organises everything well, so we're properly prepared for the tournament. We're definitely no worse than Japan or South Korea, and they were extremely successful at the last World Cup. So we should be able to get through our group. I just hope I play well and contribute to our success."
fcbayern.de: How would you feel about playing in the opening match at the Allianz Arena against Germany on 9 June?
Karimi: "It would be wonderful, a dream come true."
fcbayern.de: Let's hope the draw goes that way. Thanks for talking to us, and best of luck at Bayern!