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news 06 Jun 14

Life of Bosnian Football Legend Celebrated

A biography of the last coach of the Yugoslav national football team and famous player, Ivica Osim, has come out amid euphoria over the Bosnian team's debut in the World Cup.

Elvira M. Jukic

A biography of a Bosnian football legend, Ivica Osim: The Game of His Life, by Marko Tomas, was promoted on Wednesday in the Museum of Literature in Sarajevo.

Including his own personal dreams of becoming a football player himself, the Mostar-based writer and poet tells the story of a man who influenced countless lives  in Yugoslavia and whose name became a symbol of football greatness as far off as Japan.

Osim, now 72, whose words seem like pearls of wisdom in the football world, spoke at the book promotion of his humble beginnings in Zeljeznicar football club, and about how the game itself had changed over the decades.

“A sort of gladiatorialism has gone too far – there's too much money, too many people are obsessed by it, there's no play and no peace there,” he lamented.

Tomas's book tracks Osim's experiences over the years from being a football player to becoming a coach of many clubs and national teams, including Yugoslavia and Japan.

Osim, who is also nicknamed Svabo, or Strauss from Grbavica, became known as "sensei" in Japan, meaning "teacher".

“There is no bigger honour in Japan than the title of teacher... for the Japanese Osim is a football sensei, more than a coach – a wise man, a philosopher, a man who knew how to relate the game to life,” Tomas wrote.

While Osim was coaching the Japanese national team in 2007 he suffered an attack on the brain. He has never fully recovered, but his love of football has not wavered.

Tomas recalled that the first time he met Osim, when he was writing the book, he had exactly the same passion for the game that he always had.

While a crew of Japanese film makers working on a documentary about their sensei followed his every word at the book promotion, he jokingly said Japan was his favourite in this year's World Cup in Brazil.

Osim is seen as responsible for the Bosnian Football Federation sorting out its management problems in 2011, since when the team has made great progress.

For the first time last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina qualified for a major tournament, the World Cup, which is soon to kick off in Rio, Brasil.

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