Former Japan and Yugoslavia national soccer team manager Ivica Osim died on Sunday, according to Austrian club Sturm Graz, one of the clubs he managed. He was 80 years old.
Born in Sarajevo, Osim left a great legacy as a result of the uniting role he played in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the larger Balkans area following the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Osim, a former forward who represented Yugoslavia in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, led his team to the World Cup quarterfinals in Italy in 1990. After the 2006 World Cup, he was appointed manager of Japan, but he resigned in November 2007 due to a cerebral infarction.
Osim originally arrived in Japan in 2003 to take over as manager of JEF United Ichihara, now Chiba, and led them to their first major championship, the 2005 League Cup, by instilling the aggressive concept of “running with purpose.”
Following Zico’s departure as Japan manager, Osim tried to “Japanize Japanese football” by integrating their strengths in agility, discipline, and organization while enhancing stamina and decision-making, rather than just mimicking established European and South-American systems.
“What I learned from Mr. Osim will be important for my life ahead, and I’ll be doing my best to convey his message,” tweeted former JEF and Japan midfielder Yuki Abe, who also played for Leicester City in England.
When speaking about managing Japan, he said:
“They have covered everything with full attention, and they know everything they need, but they simply do not have that. They have an inferiority complex, and also you can’t buy tradition … there is no risk, there is no improvisation in Japan, and football can’t exist without that.
“On the other hand, it’s very easy to work in Japan because the discipline is very hard. But maybe that isn’t so good because it kills a coach. Inevitably you start to lose ideas and authority.
“You don’t want to provoke crises, but you need problems so you can create solutions. The most important thing in Japan is to make them think with their own heads, not with somebody else’s.”
He also opened his heart up while talking about the 1990 world cup when he managed Yugoslavia where they reached the quarter-final stage.
“The team,” he said, “was far, far better than the country. It would be a fantasy to lament that generation of players, and not to talk about what happened afterward. Lots of people were killed. The country was destroyed. Sometimes there are things that are more important than football.”
In Japan, a book of his sayings sold more than 400,000 copies, and he was still visited on a regular basis by Japanese journalists. Football was what kept Osim going in his later years, as disease fatigued him, whether it was talking about it or going to parks to watch youngsters play!