Legendary Croatian football coach Miroslav ‘Ciro’ Blazevic passed away only a day ahead of his 88 birthday, after a long battle with cancer.
The “coach of all coaches”, as he was often called by the Croatian public, was born in the Bosnian town of Travnik in 1935.
He had an affinity for sports from an early age. Along with cross-country skiing, Ciro also started playing football and joined Travnik’s Bratstvo, and as a very talented striker, he joined the main team at the age of 15. They falsified his documents, “ageing” him by two years, so that he could play for the seniors.
Ciro Blazevic also played for Zagreb’s Dinamo and Lokomotiva, Sarajevo, Rijeka, Sion, and Mutijer.
In his illustrious career as coach, Ciro led 19 clubs in Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, Bosnia, China, and Iran, as well as five national teams – Croatia, Switzerland, Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and China’s U-23 team.
However, two great results marked his time as coach. Under his leadership, Zagreb’s Dinamo football club won the Yugoslav First League title in 1982, and he also led the Croatian national football team to a sensational third place in FIFA World Cup in France in 1998.
“Always ’82. There was never any dilemma. Dinamo in ’82 comes first for me, then for a long time it’s nothing, and then my Vatreni (Croatia’s national team’s nickname),” Blazevic said in December 2021 at the premiere of a documentary film about him.
He holds the record for the longest tenure as coach of the Croatian national team – he led the team in 72 matches, and was for a long time the most successful of all of national team’s coaches. His World Cup bronze was only surpassed in 2018, when Croatia captured silver in Russia under the leadership of the incumbent coach, Zlatko Dalic.
“I will remember him as a man with great style, but an even greater soul. That is why we all loved and respected him. Wherever he worked, he left a mark. I can honestly say that Ciro was my ‘football father’, a true inspiration for everything I have achieved as coach. I will forever be grateful to him and all my prayers go out to him and his family. The coach of all coaches, rest in peace,” Zlatko Dalic said.
His skills as a coach, but also his immense charisma, won the hearts of football fans and the general public wherever he went.
“We all have some wishes that never came true, but I don’t have the right to complain. I achieved so much considering where I came from and how I started. I have no reason not to be proud of myself because I came from such poverty. I became a successful coach, a well-known coach, and that flatters me because I love people so much,” Blazevic said in his last interview with N1, in May 2022.
For over 60 years, Blazevic was married to his wife Zdenka, with whom he had three children: son Miroslav Junior and daughters Barbara and Catherine. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, but he beat the disease. A year later, he underwent surgery to remove early-stage melanoma. Unfortunately, cancer returned in September 2019.
In one of his last public appearances, when he accepted the Vladimir Beara award for contributions to the development of sports culture and social tolerance last December, Blazevic said: “You’ve come in large numbers and showed me a great honour. However, this will be the last time I speak publicly like this. It’s over. No more. Adieu, Ciro. I’m counting my last days, I’m aware of that.”
That day, he did not give any interviews to the media, interviews he had always loved and never refused.