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Bosnia and Herzegovina mourning hero Osim

Ivica Osim, a legendary footballing figure in Bosnia and Herzegovina and honorary president of the country’s national association, has died at the age of 81.

Ivica Osim
Ivica Osim Fedja Krvavac

Sarajevo-born Osim was deeply respected in Bosnia and Herzegovina for his role in helping to bring stability in leading the national association through a period of crisis a decade ago.

During his playing career, Osim earned renown as a skilful midfield player who was a member of the Yugoslavia squad which finished runners-up to Italy in the 1968 European Championship.

‘Great loss’

Osim was made honorary president of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation (NSBiH) in December 2016. “His death is a great loss not only for [domestic football], but also for the European and world game,” the NSBiH said in a statement which praised his “authority and influence in the world of football.”

“The news of his death was received with disbelief and sadness,” the association added in emphasising that it had “lost a great friend. His philosophical understanding of football and life was invaluable because it was sincere and always directed towards progress.”

Ivica Osim was born in Sarajevo in 1941 and started out as a youngster at FK Željezničar. Following his senior debut in 1959/60, he spent 11 years at the club, scoring 75 goals in 250 official appearances. After a brief spell in the Netherlands, he played in France from 1970 for Strasbourg, Sedan and Valenciennes.

Goalscoring prowess

Nicknamed “Strauss” because of his blonde hair, Osim won 16 caps for Yugoslavia between 1964 and 1969, scoring eight goals. He played a key role in the single-goal win over England in Florence that took his country to the EURO 68 final, where they were beaten by hosts Italy after a replay.

Four years previously, Osim found the net four times in five games as Yugoslavia reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament in Japan. This special prowess in front of goal would help earn him the accolade of Yugoslavia’s best player in 1967.

Coaching successes

Osim ended his playing career in 1978, and he became a successful coach. He led Željezničar from 1978 to 1986, and went on take charge of Partizan, Panathinaikos and Sturm Graz in Europe, as well as JEF United in Japan, winning trophies in each country where he coached.

From 1986 to 1992, Osim coached Yugoslavia’s national team, and his last coaching assignment was as Japan’s national team coach in 2006-07.