Miroslav “Ciro” Blazevic, who led the Croatian soccer team to the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup in France, has died. He was 87.
Blazevic died Wednesday at a hospital in Zagreb, according to his family and friends. He had been sick with prostate cancer for a long time.
The “coach of all coaches,” as he was known in his home country of Croatia, led four national teams and several domestic and foreign clubs during his career.
Blazevic was born in Travnik, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to a Catholic family. He was a good player, but not great. In the 1960s, he started coaching at the Swiss club Vevey, where he ended his playing career.
Blazevic also coached the national teams of Switzerland, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dinamo Zagreb, Nantes, Grasshopper Zurich, Sion, Shanghai Shenhua, PAOK Thessaloniki, and Hajduk Split were some of the teams he coached.
Croatia finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France, which was the high point of his coaching career. This was only a few years after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.
“The whole country was proud, but I was sad,” Blazevic said recently about the 1998 success. “If I had the experience I have now, we would have been the world champions.”
He won over the French fans by wearing a policeman’s hat on the bench in honor of a French officer who was put in a coma by German hooligans early in the tournament.
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Blazevic had a colorful public persona. In the 1980s, he was known for always wearing a white scarf when he went out. He also tried his hand at politics. In 2005, he ran for president of Croatia but got less than 1% of the vote.
“Some people from high politics have persuaded me to run for the presidency as they are sure I could win,” Blazevic, a fierce right-wing sympathizer, said at the time. “As for the 10,000 signatures necessary to endorse my bid, I could collect them simply by turning up at any soccer game and ask the fans to sign their names.”
This next Thursday was supposed to be his 88th birthday party.
This information is officially published on usatoday.com.