To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Bosnia and Herzegovina chose Safet Sušić as their Golden Player.
Safet Sušić wore the colours of FK Krivaja, FK Sarajevo, Paris Saint-Germain FC and Yugoslavia during a long and successful career. Whatever the shirt, though, the centre-forward was always likely to score goals.
Born in Zavidovici on 13 April 1955, Sušić started out with Krivaja before joining Sarajevo at the age of 20. He flourished under coach Fuad Muzurović and ended up recording a century of goals in 350 games for Sarajevo, precipitating a move to Paris Saint-Germain FC in 1982.
Over the next nine years, Sušić continued to impress: he scored 96 times in 343 appearances, helping PSG win the French Cup in 1983 and the league title two years later. Indeed such was his contribution to the Parisians' cause that in February 2010 France Football magazine chose Sušić as the club's greatest player.
Sušić shone also at international level with Yugoslavia, registering 21 goals in 54 matches. He played at the 1982 and 1990 FIFA World Cups – scoring in the latter tournament – and at the 1984 UEFA European Championship. However, he is best remembered by many fans for the three hat-tricks he struck in an 18-month period in the late 1970s, in victories against Romania (6-4), Italy (4-1) and Argentina (4-1).
Remembering those exploits, Sušić told UEFA.com: "The first was against Romania in Bucharest in a 1978 World Cup qualifier, but my favourites were against Italy and then world champions Argentina. I scored three times against the Italians in Zagreb in June 1979. Two months later, I got another hat-trick against the Argentinians in Belgrade."
Sušić believes that he might "not have been as good" a player without the help of three coaches – Muzurović at Sarajevo, Ivica Osim with Yugoslavia, and Tomislav Ivić with PSG. They were the men he wished to emulate when embarking on his own coaching career, which began at AS Cannes in 1994.
There followed an assignment in Turkey with İstanbulspor AŞ, then a stint in Saudi Arabia with Al-Hilal before Sušić subsequently held a number of posts back in Turkey at Konyaspor, MKE Ankaragücü, Rizespor and Ankaraspor.
Given that his one regret from his playing career was the fact he never playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sušić had been retired for three years when they played their first international in the mid-90s – he received the perfect opportunity to make amends when he was appointed national coach in December 2009, replacing Miroslav Blažević.
Sušić described the post as "a great honour" as he set about plotting Bosnia and Herzegovina's qualifying campaign for UEFA EURO 2012. "As a player I played in the European Championship in France, so I hope I will do it as a coach as well," he said, speaking to UEFA.com in 2011. He is only too aware of the role football plays as a "force for cohesion" in his country and is determined to reward the faith shown in him with his appointment.
"The fact that I was unanimously chosen to coach the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team shows exactly how football reunites people," he said. "We are all determined to succeed, to make it possible for our football fans both here and abroad to watch their favourite players in one big competition."
Whether he achieves that goal or not, Sušić's reputation as his country's outstanding footballer will undoubtedly live on. Reflecting modestly on the Golden Player award he won, he listed others who might have merited it – "Asim Ferhatović, whom I watched as a boy, Ivica Osim, Muhamed Mujić or Blaž Slišković" – yet none would have been a more worthy recipient than Sušić himself.
Last updated: 28 January 2011
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