Outgoing, unconventional and, most importantly, successful, Bora Milutinovic has made an indelible mark on the history of world football after coaching five different national teams at five different FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments.
As active on the Planet Football scene as ever, the well-travelled Milutinovic was part of the bidding team that successfully earned Qatar the right to host the 2022 edition of the global showpiece. The 66-year-old tactician continues to post a popular blog in China and also works at Qatar’s cutting-edge Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence.
In an interview with FIFA.com, the vastly experienced supremo, who also coached Iraq at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, gave his views on a wide range of topics, including this year’s continental competitions, Qatar’s successful bid and what his future holds.
FIFA.com: Bora, you followed the recent AFC Asian Cup in Qatar very closely, so what can you tell us about the standard of football at the competition?
Bora Milutinovic: It was a great experience. I always enjoy being able to attend competitions like this. There’s a great atmosphere in the stadiums and they’re perfectly organised. I’d already been to three previous editions of the competition, once as China coach and twice as a spectator, and I can say that the quality of football is something else. It’s dynamic and modern in style. I saw some good games this time around.
Speaking of Qatar, as someone who worked on their bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, how does it feel to have been successful?
I’m really excited and very happy, especially for the people of Qatar. The Middle East has a great opportunity to demonstrate all the progress that has been made and I’m certain it’ll be a dream World Cup. I just hope I live long enough to be there! (Laughs)
What was the first thought that popped into your head when Qatar were revealed as the winning candidates?
Oh! (Laughs) Putting into words the emotions that swept over me at that moment just isn’t possible. Naturally, I was very happy for all the people who’d worked so hard to achieve that level of recognition. I’m sure that they (Qatar) will show a side of themselves that differs from some people’s preconceptions.
People need to be positive and understand what hosting a World Cup means to this country and this continent. It’ll be a great tournament for everyone involved: the players and the public at large.
What kind of competition will the country put on?
Everyone is free to have a different opinion, but what really matters is being aware that there’s no such thing as a perfect world. I’ll give you an example: at the Asian Cup I was able to see two games a day, because the stadiums were only half an hour away from each other! Football lovers will be able to get to a lot of matches. And also, there are a lot of countries nearby to visit. People need to be positive and understand what hosting a World Cup means to this country and this continent. It’ll be a great tournament for everyone involved: the players and the public at large.
You’re a renowned expert on CONCACAF football. What can you tell us about the changes in the region’s footballing map since South Africa 2010?
Mexico need to look long and hard to see where the problems lie. It is a hugely passionate country and I hope that Jose Manuel de la Torre, who’s a young and intelligent coach, can get everyone pulling in the same direction. They’ve got an excellent crop of players. Costa Rica have got [Ricardo] La Volpe in charge, and the Costa Rican people are also a passionate nation, but they lack patience. The (CONCACAF) Gold Cup (in the USA in June) will be interesting.
July’s Copa America is set to follow hot on the heels of the Gold Cup. Will you be attending Argentina 2011?
I’m hoping to be in Argentina to watch what I’m sure will be a great competition. The tournament is like a mini World Cup, featuring as it does some of the best teams in the world like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. South American football is very passionate and they’ll all be planning for the next World Cup (in Brazil in 2014). The CONCACAF tournament is also intense. Both competitions are important in that qualifying places at the FIFA Confederations Cup are at stake, so we’ll have to keep a close eye on both.
Lionel Messi took the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010, while Jose Mourinho was chosen as the Coach of the Year in men’s football. Do you agree with those selections?
What? I thought I was the best coach! (Laughs) Seriously though, if we’re going on results, Mourinho was fantastic and won a lot of silverware. As far as the Ballon d’Or is concerned, well Messi is Messi! With the greatest respect to the other players in the running, Messi is so talented and has such a huge impact at both club level and with Argentina. He’s an excellent colleague with a very strong sense of team spirit, and if you throw in his irreproachable private life, there’s nothing left to say. Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and the rest were also excellent in that regard. I think it’s good to be a positive role model off the pitch too.
One last question, when can we expect to see you picking up the coaching reins of a team once more?
Fingers crossed it’s with Qatar in 2022! (Laughs once more). Joking aside, I worked on their candidacy and I’m involved with their Aspire Academy. So though I may not be out there on the training field, I’m still actively involved with football. Coaching is my life, but I’m now focusing my passion for the game onto helping improve Qatari football.