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'Ciro' hopes to end career in China

By Xinhua in Zagreb,Croatia (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-09 07:14

It was a long time ago when Miroslav Blazevic embarked on his lifetime mission - to coach until it was his time to say goodbye to this world. He is still on that mission.

"On several occasions I tried to retire and lead a more peaceful life but I am not good at this. It's more than obvious that football is my life so I will continue to work as long as I get a chance to coach. With my age I feel privileged that I still get a chance to work. I hope I will fulfill my wish and draw my last breath on the bench," Blazevic said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently.

His 50th season on the bench just came to a glorious end. He won the Bosnian second division title with Sloboda Tuzla and he revived a club that was once one of the best soccer teams in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For his contributions, Blazevic was named honorable citizen of Tuzla, a town in northeastern Bosnia that has a history dating back to the Stone Age.

"I am very proud of the achievement with Sloboda Tuzla. The club is back to the Bosnian Premier League which brought joy to its supporters. Seeing all those happy faces made me a happy man."

'Ciro' hopes to end career in China

Blazevic, best known in Croatia and all over the world by the nickname 'Ciro', has coached clubs and national teams for half a century. One would assume he had enough of that stressful life and even he would suggest he needs a break.

Just a minute later, the fire inside him starts to burn and he is again ready to talk about his future plans. He is not done coaching and he desires to go back to the place where he spent two years coaching Shanghai Shenhua FC and the China Olympic team.

"It's not easy for me to travel that far anymore, but I hope that China will be my next destination. China is my desire. From all the countries in the world, China would be a perfect place to end my career."

When he speaks about Chinese footballers, he is full of praise, but he also believes he knows why China doesn't make it to the World Cup finals consistently.

"China is great and very powerful country. The problem with football is that it's not a national sport (there)," he said.

"There are a lot of sports, especially individual sports disciplines that are more popular among Chinese people than football. Despite that, China has very talented players. All that they need is an improved system. Football infrastructure in China is at a very high level. They have everything. With some small organizational improvements China can become the best football nation in Asia."

Blazevic knows how it feels to be on top. He was there a few times in his career and in 1998 he came close to being on top of the world with the Croatian national side. It was a huge third-place finish that brought a lot of joy to the Croatian people.

"When I think about1998World Cup I have mixed feelings of joy and sadness. I feel sad because that team was destined to win the World Cup. It was a tougher task to beat Netherlands in a bronze medal match than to be at that weakened Brazil in the final. On the other hand, we have to be proud of our achievement that was great for such a small country. I hope that this generation can repeat what we did."

The Croatian golden generation included players such as Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and DavorSuker.

"There's no doubt that Croatian team of the 1998 World Cup was the best group of players that I had a chance to work with. But, it would be unfair from me not to mention the Bosnian team of 2009 that had a lot of talented players. There are still eight players from that team that will play at this upcoming World Cup. They have good chance to do something big in Brazil. In my opinion, players from Balkans are the most talented in the world."

Blazevic led Croatia for six years. His reign came to an end when the team failed to qualify for the 2000 European Championship.

"I wasn't fired; it was my decision to leave. At that time, the atmosphere around the team was bad and I thought that it was the best thing to do for our national team. It had to happen at some point. When I see that all of my colleagues are retired, I feel very happy that I am still active."

How long he will be active, one may wonder, and how good can he still be? Blazevic is fast to respond to that question.

"I can assure you that I was never as good as I am now. With this knowledge that I have today I would've been European Champion and won the 1998 World Cup with Croatia, and I would've led Bosnia and Herzegovina to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa."

(China Daily 06/09/2014 page23)

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