Former Czech international Ivan Hasek, who plied his club trade at homeland outfit Sparta Prague as well as in France and Japan during the course of his playing career, is the very image of a man content with his lot. And well he might be given his pioneering dual role as President of the Czech Football Association (CMFS) and head coach of the national team.
Part of the Czech side that impressed on their way to reaching the quarter-finals at Italy 1990, Hasek took time out to speak to FIFA.com during his visit to the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Tuesday 28 July 2009.
FIFA.com: Ivan Hasek, what brings you to the Home of FIFA?
Ivan Hasek: We're delighted to come to FIFA to gain some experience, to learn how to manage our Association, because FIFA take care of every (member) association. We want to build upon the framework that FIFA showed us today. For us, it's a good organisation to use as an example.
What are your aims as CMFS President?
Above all else, I'd like to have the trust of everybody involved in football in the Czech Republic. That'd be a first step forward. And then I want to remind all of us who are part of the game that we work in football because we love the sport. I want there to be more people who love the game in the Czech Republic, that's my goal.
You are in the unique position of being both Football Association President and national team coach. Which do you find most difficult?
Both roles are easy when you win games! But seriously, I enjoy both jobs. Above all though, we're doing everything we can to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, that's fundamental. So I won't be national coach for a very long time, I just doing it to try and salvage a campaign we started badly and to help the team qualify for this major event. It's one of the priorities of Czech football. We must be able to look ourselves in the mirror and say we've done everything in our power to qualify.
How would you explain the team's poor start in 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying?
There wasn't any togetherness out on the pitch. We had good players but they weren't strong enough collectively, it's as simple as that. We now need to show another side to us, at least that's the message I'm going to try to get through to my players. I'm going to rely on the team as a whole, as opposed to key players.
You have a crucial match coming in September against none other than Slovakia...
Clearly it's a strange match. In an ideal world we'd like both teams to qualify for the World Cup, as we've all got friends in Slovakia. I even played alongside the Slovak national coach Vladimir Weiss (for Czechoslovakia) at the 1990 World Cup, so you get the picture. From now on we'll be on opposing sides but, though everything will be put to one side during the match, we'll be friends before the game and definitely still be friends afterwards.
Why do Czech Republic often struggle to reach major tournaments?
It's hard to say. When we qualified in 2006 it ended a run of 16 years without appearing at the biggest competition of them all. It must be said that World Cup qualifying phases are often more difficult than reaching a EURO, for example. They are four-year cycles and you have to make long-term preparations. As soon as this qualifying phase finishes, we'll turn our focus straightaway to preparing a strong team for 2014.
In contrast, the Czech Republic's U-20 team reached the final of their FIFA World Cup at Canada 2007 and have qualified again for the 2009 event. How does that feel?
That makes me really happy. It's the biggest positive (for Czech football) in 2009 so far. Taking part at the U-20 World Cup is an exceptional feat in itself. Karel Poborsky will be heading our delegation over in Egypt, because he's a member of the Association's Executive. I must also say that the clubs have done their bit too. They released their players without a fuss because they know that it's for the good of Czech football.
Speaking of youngsters, one of the stars of the current U-20 crop is Tomas Necid. What's your verdict?
Tomas Necid? He's already played for the seniors so it's not certain he'll go to Egypt with the U-20s. He's talented but one player doesn't make a team, that's not how it works. What matters is to have a strong team in Egypt, not a collection of individuals. For him, what counts is to earn a regular starting place at CSKA Moscow where there's fierce competition. He needs playing time. Some of the players who went to Canada in 2007 joined foreign clubs straight after and not all are playing regular first-team football. It's a problem for us at the moment. From a sporting perspective, they may not necessarily have made the right decision.