The legendary Croatian football coach lost his long battle with cancer on Wednesday. He was supposed to celebrate his 88th birthday in two days, reports Index.hr.
Blažević was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011 but fought off the vicious disease. A year after that, he was operated on for melanoma. In September 2019, his cancer unfortunately returned.
Blažević made one of his last public appearances in mid-December last year when he received the “Vladimir Beara” award in Zagreb for his contribution to the development of sports culture and social tolerance.
“You gathered in large numbers and showed me a great honor. But this is my last address to the public. It’s over—no more. Goodbye Ćiro. I’m counting the last days, and I’m aware of that,” Ćiro said.
“I’m so sick; it’s so hard for me. This f***ing illness has taken over. I’m struggling, and I’m suffering. I’m in great pain, so, well…” said Ćiro about the illness three days ago. “My legs can’t hold me more than heavy water; I’m going for an infusion. The situation is difficult, to be honest. Very, very difficult. Cancer has spread to all my bones and the worst and most dangerous place – the liver. And it destroys everything slowly and surely,” he added.
Miroslav Ćiro Blažević was born on February 10, 1935, in Travnik, where he began, as he always said, a modest football career. He was born as the eighth, youngest child of Katarina Blažević (née Matovinović) and Mate Blažević. Their first two children, Ivica and Marica, whom their parents did not talk much about, died at just a few months old from the Spanish flu. Miroslav also had sisters Jelena and Dragica, brothers Ante and Joško, and an older sister Jozefina in Zagreb.
Ćiro played football until he was 31 when he decided to become a coach in Moutier, Switzerland. He stayed in Switzerland and managed Vevey and Sion before taking over the national team of Switzerland in 1979. However, his rise as a coach began in 1979 when he came to Rijeka. Although he finished the Championship in 10th place, Ćiro led Rijeka to the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final and lost to Juventus. At the end of the season, he came to Dinamo, and that’s when the legend of Ćiro began.
After finishing fifth in his first season on the bench, Ćiro brought Dinamo the Yugoslav championship title in 1982 after 24 years of waiting and forever became a Dinamo legend. Cerin, Deverić, Mlinarić, Zajec, Vlak, and others played fantastic football that attracted an average of 30,000 spectators to Maksimir.
Dinamo confirmed the title by winning against Željezničar four rounds before the end, and the celebration in the city did not stop for weeks. The architect of that great success was Ćiro, who trampled everything in front of him with a white scarf around his neck.
“It was perfect and, without competition, the biggest success of my career. Kudos to the bronze medal in France, but for me, Dinamo’s 1982 success is the crowning glory of everything I’ve done as a coach,” said Ćiro on his 82nd birthday.
The legendary coach did not stop there and won the Yugoslav Cup with Dinamo the following season and left Dinamo for the first time at the end of the season. Then, he went to Grasshopper, with whom he won the Swiss Championship, and won the hearts of the fans again in 1985 when he led Priština to the first Yugoslav league.
In the same year, he returned to Dinamo and did not achieve notable results. Nevertheless, he welcomed the declaration of Croatian independence in Nantes, where he stayed until 1991, and after a year at PAOK in 1992, he returned to Dinamo.
As a great admirer of President Franjo Tuđman and a prominent member of the HDZ, Ćiro could not refuse Tuđman’s invitation to return to Croatia. He won the Croatian Championship in 1993 and the Cup in 1994. However, at the end of that season, Ćiro left Dinamo again, for the third time, because he was given the most significant task – to lead the Croatia national team.
Ćiro sensationally started the European Championship qualifiers. In front of a powerful Italy (with the help of Tomislav Ivić), they won first place in the group, and directly qualified for the European Championship in England. Croatia brilliantly passed the group with Turkey, Denmark (defending champions), and Portugal with six points, only to lose to Germany 2:1 in the quarter-finals with the great help of referee Leif Sundell.
At that time, Ćiro already enjoyed a considerable reputation in Croatia and Europe, but the best was yet to come. After the dramatic qualifications, Croatia qualified for the World Cup in France, winning a sensational third place in 1998. Ćiro’s team led in the semi-final against France 1:0 but lost with two goals from Lilian Thuram, who were the only goals in his career for the national team.
France was the zenith of Ćiro’s coaching career. In the qualifiers for Euro 2000, in the last round at Maksimir, Croatia had to beat Serbia for a place in the additional qualifiers, but they played 2:2 and were eliminated. There was also a change of generations and the qualifications for the World Cup in Japan and Korea. Croatia got off to a bad start, and after drawing against Scotland at Maksimir, Ćiro resigned.
In six years on the bench, Ćiro led Croatia 73 times and recorded 36 wins, 22 draws, and 15 losses.
In 2001, he went to Iran, which failed to take him to the World Cup in Japan and Korea. After that, he saved Osijek from relegation from the league, only to return to Dinamo for the fourth time in 2002 and win the league title. However, at the end of the season, he had an argument with Zdravko Mamić, who kicked him out of the club.
After Mura and Varteks, Blažević came to Hajduk in 2005, who was then preparing for Champions League qualifications. Before the draw, Ćiro said they would give him “that Liverpool,” but the balls connected him with Debrecen, against whom Hajduk experienced one of the biggest embarrassments in its history. The Hungarian club won 3:0 in the first game and 5:0 at Poljud, and it was a defeat from which Ćiro could not save himself. On September 18, after a series of bad results, he resigned.
In 2007, Ćiro was third in the HNL with Zagreb. By the end of his prosperous coaching career, Ćiro would manage six more clubs, but he left his most significant mark as the head coach of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although part of the BiH public did not approve, Ćiro united the BiH national team in his way and soon earned the entire country’s support, which once again breathed with its national team. He fit perfectly into the new environment and almost led Bosnia and Herzegovina to the 2010 World Cup. But, instead, he entered the additional qualifiers, where he lost to a strong Portugal.
After leaving BiH, Ćiro went to China and then to Iran, only to return to NK Zagreb in 2012, with which he was relegated from the league. In January 2014, he went to Sloboda from Tuzla and sensationally returned them to the Premier League in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the end of the season, he took over NK Zadar, where he ended his coaching career in January 2015.
Ćiro Blažević’s career overview
Playing career: Bratstvo Travnik, Dinamo, Lokomotiva, Sarajevo, Rijeka, Sion, Moutier
Coaching career: Vevey, Sion, Switzerland, Lausanne-Sport, Rijeka, Dinamo Zagreb, Grasshopper, Priština, Dinamo Zagreb, Nantes, PAOK, Croatia Zagreb, Croatia, Iran, Osijek, Dinamo Zagreb, Mura, Varteks, Hajduk, Neuchatel Xamax, Zagreb, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Shanghai Shenhua, China U-23, Mes Kerman, Zagreb, Sloboda Tuzla, Zadar
Sion, Swiss Cup – 1974
Championship of Yugoslavia – 1982
Yugoslav Cup – 1983
First HNL: 1993, 2003
Croatian Cup: 1994
Croatian Super Cup: 2002
Swiss Championship: 1984
Croatian Supercup: 2005
Croatia national team:
3rd place at World Cup 1998
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