A Slovenian FA (NZS) delegation headed by newly-appointed President Ivan Simic visited Home of FIFA in Zurich on Wednesday 22 April 2009. Following a meeting with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, Simic spoke to FIFA.com about his first two months in office, and his vision for the game in Slovenia.
FIFA.com: Mr. Simic, what brings you to Home of FIFA today?
Ivan Simic: Vice-president Franc Kopatin, General Secretary Dane Jost and I, the new senior officials at the Slovenian FA, came to introduce ourselves to the FIFA President. We met up to share a few ideas and discuss a number of topics.
You became President of the association at the end of February. What are your priorities for the next few years?
We want to change a number of aspects of the Slovenian game, especially the organisational side. The main priority is youth and development work. We also want to set up workshops for coaches and referees, expand our relationships with neighbouring countries, and obviously maintain our excellent relationship with FIFA and UEFA. In short, we want to do everything we can to continue the development of Slovenian football.
In qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Slovenia made a very good start but lost to Northern Ireland recently. How would you rate your chances of securing a place at the finals?
We still have every chance of qualifying for the World Cup, although to do so, we’ll have to win all our last four matches. We still have two really challenging games, our home fixture against Poland and the trip to Slovakia.
Slovenia’s maiden appearance at the finals came in 2002. What would a second appearance mean to you?
It would be wonderful. A place at the World Cup finals would set off a wave of euphoria in the country. The Slovenian people are passionate about the game in any case, but qualifying for the World Cup would make them even more enthusiastic.
In your opinion, what are the major improvements required to continue the development of the game in Slovenia?
We can improve in a number of areas, including our youth work and the way we organise our clubs and leagues.
A number of your best players earn their wages abroad. Is that good in terms of developing the domestic game?
It’s very good for Slovenian football. We have players at clubs in Germany, England, France, Italy and elsewhere. In the Bundesliga, Milivoje Novakovic is doing so well at Cologne, the fans have even adopted a song in his honour. It all goes to show we have plenty of talented footballers. I hope we’ll see even more Slovenian players at major overseas clubs in the future.
Turning to the clubs in your country, what are the chances of a Slovenian club becoming a fixture on the European scene in the near future?
Nothing’s impossible. I hope one of our clubs manages to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages again soon, as our last representatives were Maribor in 1999/2000. However, it’ll take a huge amount of hard work and a bit of luck too. Let’s wait and see what happens in the coming years.