Because this is a World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 32 participating nations. In this installment, I will look at Bosnia-Herzegovina, an emerging European nation that finished first in their qualifying group (ahead of Greece) and have drawn a group that includes Nigeria, Argentina, and Iran. Bosnia-Herzegovina play their first match against South American favorites Argentina on June 15th.
One unique aspect of the Bosnia-Herzegovina team is that their coach, former Yugoslavian star player Safet Susic, is the uncle of one of the current team’s young stars in Tino-Sven Susic. The younger Susic has an interesting back story, having fled his native Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s (because of the war happening at the time), he grew up in Belgium and starred in their youth National teams as a U17 and U20 player. He also holds Croatian citizenship, and plays for one of the top Croatian clubs Hadjuk Split, so he could have opted to play for Belgium or Croatia instead of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the end he chose to play for the country where he grew up and where his family’s roots are.
Tino-Sven is not the first World Cup player to be coached by a family member. Some notable recent examples include Italian star Paolo Maldini, who was coached by his father Cesare in France in 1998, and Michael Bradley of the USA, who was coached by his father Bob in South Africa in 2010. Sometimes the father-son (or uncle-nephew) coach-payer relationship can put a lot of pressure on the player to live up to higher expectations of media and fans, who may feel that the player’s selection was not based on merit but rather on family loyalty or bias. In the case of Tino-Sven, there is also the added pressure that his uncle is not only his coach, but is also a former star player for Yugoslavia who was and still is very popular with Bosnian fans. Furthermore, Tino-Sven’s father, Sead Susic, is another renowned former Yugoslavian star player, so the player is certainly entering the World Cup with a lot to prove.
The young Susic has handled this pressure in the right way, focusing the attention of the media on the fact that he has earned his place in the team, and vowing to prove it at the World Cup. He recently told fifa.com:
“Being a Susic is not easy I have to prove that I’m in the side not because of my name or my uncle but because of the work I’ve done. I’ve learned to live with that. Some people think I’ve had a few strings pulled for me, but I don’t see it that way at all and I’m going to do everything I can on the pitch to show that.”
For Bosnia-Herzegovina to be successful in a tough group that includes one of the top teams from each of South America, Africa, and Asia, they will need all players including Tino-Sven Susic to rise above the pressure and perform to the best of their abilities. We will have to wait and see what happens in 1 month’s time.
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