Over the years several players have appeared at the FIFA World Cup™ in sides coached by their fathers or fathers-in-law: Uruguay’s Milton Viera in 1966, Italy’s Paolo Maldini in 1998, Niko Kranjcar of Croatia and Dusan Petkovic of Serbia in 2006, and finally Argentina’s Sergio Aguero, the Netherlands’ Mark van Bommel, the USA’s Michael Bradley and Vladimir Weiss of Slovakia in 2010.
A new name may soon be added to that list, with Tino-Sven Susic appearing in the provisional 24-man Bosnia squad that has just been named by Zmajevi coach and former Yugoslavia star Safet Susic, who also happens to be his uncle.
There is more to the Sarajevo-born Tino-Sven than just being the nephew of a famous footballer, however. Skilled in the art of winning and passing the ball, the well-built yet technically gifted Hajduk Split defensive midfielder can work wonders with his left foot.
Proof of that came only last weekend when he scored a stunning goal against Osijek in a Croatian league match, controlling the ball in textbook fashion and arrowing a shot into the top corner from 25 metres out.
“Tino has just had two excellent seasons with his club and he’s earned his place on the list thanks to his qualities as a player,” commented Susic on announcing his Brazil 2014 squad.
As if to answer any critics, he then said: “I know there will always be people who don’t agree with the selection of some players and that some of those who have missed out will be disappointed. Right now, however, these are the best 24 players we have.”
Bosnia can consider themselves fortunate to have a player of Tino-Sven’s qualities, given that he also holds Belgian and Croatian nationality and only recently decided where his international future lay.
Leaving the former Yugoslavia after his birth, he grew up in Belgium and represented his adopted country at virtually all age categories.
Explaining his situation to FIFA.com, he said: “I have a very strong attachment to Belgium, but my whole family is from Bosnia. That’s where my roots are. In the end my decision was a logical one.”
In making it, he has given himself quite a task, however. Having won unanimous praise in Belgium, where he starred as a youngster for Standard Liege, and done much the same in Croatia, where he has spent the last two years with Hajduk, he now has to go and win over a section of Bosnia fans perhaps suspicious of the motives behind his selection.
“Being a Susic is not easy,” he explained. “I have to prove that I’m in the side not because of my name or my uncle but because of the work I’ve done. I’ve learned to live with that. Some people think I’ve had a few strings pulled for me, but I don’t see it that way at all and I’m going to do everything I can on the pitch to show that.”
A hard taskmaster
Whatever the case may be, the suspicions generated by the Hajduk man’s selection have in no way detracted from his delight at getting so close to making the world finals. And as he made clear, there was no question of him receiving any preferential treatment when the squad was announced.
“Croatian TV didn’t broadcast my uncle’s press conference and I only found out on the internet,” he explained. “I was absolutely thrilled when I saw my name. It was a childhood dream come true. I’ve worked very hard to make it happen. I am very proud and very happy.”
While the Bosnia coach has had only a small part to play in Tino-Sven’s success, the same cannot be said of his father, Sead Susic, the former Yugoslavia and Crvena Zvezda forward and Safet’s older brother.
“If there is one person I need to thank, then it’s him,” the 22-year-old said. “He’s my role model. He’s always pushed me to improve, and he’s pushed me very hard, too. I owe him an awful lot.”
Given the talent he possesses, the latest member of the Susic dynasty could well be silencing the doubters in Brazil in a few weeks’ time and carving his very own path.