(Toistaiseksi haastattelu englanniksi…)

From the first game in 1940 to October 2015, Croatia A national team has played 269 international matches, and gained especially valuable score of 142 wins, 73 draws and 54 defeats, with goal difference 470-265.

Marko Pancirov
Currently Head Coach at Academy of
FC ”Hrvatski Dragovoljac” (engl. “Croatian Volunteer”)
UEFA ”A” coaching license.
Coaching professionally 

1) I started my carrier from the lowest leagues in Croatia where I gained necessary knowledge and experience, and currently I am coaching CFC ”Croatian Volunteer” Academy team (B-juniors b. 2000), who compete in the 1st Croatia’s National League.

2) As a player I had the distinction of team leader, so I performed as an extended hand of our coach on the pitch, and even then I felt that coaching could be my next profession. I started to coach while I was a player, coaching then the youngest teams and eventually, I realized that I have some sense for that, so I decided to educate and devote myself seriously to this inner call.

3) This team, which I am coaching now, I took over in October 2015, and now I was their coach for only nine months. It is essential to note that this team was regarded (or classified) as the worst team in the entire organization. But since we completed the past season as the winners, it is clear that we have made progress, and this fact can support my reply to your previous question. I enjoy greatly when I get a team in whom nobody believes, and when I manage to make a winner from such a team.

4) It was widely recognised that Croatians have a certain talent for the football. Of course, it is easier to do something with the talented players, but if player wants to play at the top level, the maximum attention has to be paid to training, and he has to maximise every coach’s request.

5) I think that Croats are not only talented for the team sports, but have also top level sportsmen in the individual sports as well. Maybe the team sports receive more media coverage, more people are watching football, basketball, handball than i.e. archery, discus throwing and other such disciplines, so it just acquires such an impression.

6) All activities relating to the selection of players I carry out exclusively alone. In my leisure time I scout other clubs and if I notice an interesting player, I watch him playing for at least three times and then make decision about whether I will try to engage him or not. Of course, sometimes I recruit players and pre-test them on the recommendation of my colleagues, my players, but also by ordinary people. I never reject, but I also never take in my team the player in whose abilities I’m not convinced.

7) It is desirable that the player has a knack for the game, good technique and good motor abilities. It often happens that a player, who has all these characteristics, is more interested in bigger clubs and as such can not be hired. I am assured that personally, I can develop each player to a decent technical level, but to me is of great importance that the player has a good motor skills, quality work habits and intelligence.

8) Honestly, sometimes I am questioning myself whether I may be too hard on my players. Definitely, everybody in the team must know the meaning of order and discipline, or for instance, who is the boss. Of course, that they are severely punished for the failures, but also they are also rewarded for well done things. I am trying to be just and fair to every player, regardless of his player’s value. I am ready to make anything for them, not only in football but also in terms of private matters. Accordingly, a mix of rigor and fatherly relationship with the players in my previous work proved to be the best method. My players are always motivated to work because they know that otherwise they would not play. I am known as a successful coach, during the last four years I’ve won four championships and one Cup, and therefore the players know they have to surpass themselves if they want to get into my team. Of course I also incorporate motivational speeches and use certain situations from sports and everyday life in order to motivate them.

9) At the beginning there is always a problem, there is a very strong resistance to the severity and maintaining the discipline. However, with the time I have always managed to show and prove, that for me every player has equal rights and obligations, and at the end the players accept it.

10) Training lasts 2 hours, from that, actively working is 1 hour and 40 minutes, and the remaining time is used for the break and refreshing. I’m planning my trainings on a daily basis, some of the things I’m doing according to the program of futball’s school, and some things I do alone, or when I notice that some exercises are difficult to players, whether in terms of tactics or technique, I focus on solving such problems.

11) Training sessions are 4-5 times a week + match. During the preparation period we are training twice daily. Some players perform their individual workouts at their leisure.

12) Beside working with the ball, we exercise also dynamic flexibility. In most cases the selection of exercises is left to the players on their will, I believe that each player can prepare himself the best way for the work he wants, and thus you see immediately who is interested in the work and progress, and who is not.

13) Speed is an innate quality so you can’t improve it with the workout, but of course I do exercises to develop players speed. Usually the speed exercises are prepared through some kind of players mutual competitions or through situational training, and the finals 1:1 (one against one) and alike.

14) I explain with the words and drawing the board, the players remember better when they see displayed what I want from them.

15) The authority is achieved by compliance and by applying the rules that are determined at the very beginning of any preparation. In the event of a fault by an individual, there is no deviation from the punishment that must be imposed for failure, no matter how much the individual is important to the game of my team.

Also, authority is accomplished with what is presented to the players during their training and matches. The players quickly detect whether the coach’s efforts make any sense.

16) Unfortunately, today when the child begins to deal with football, in most cases, his first thought, and especially his parents, is to make money. In most cases there is no true love for the game itself.

17) At the moment my players make the only group that I want to train in this club. It was difficult to accustom to the way I work, being demanding in every detail of training, demanding from the players to give more than the maximum in order to obtain from them at least something I’m looking for. Because my players finally managed to implement my ideas successfully, I am satisfied with them and expect their further progress in mutual cooperation.

18) Parents accompany their children to the matches and training, and support them in a way that enables them to fulfill all that our club is asking for in terms of participation on the tournaments, purchase of equipment, etc..

19) Today, the vast majority of clubs have pitches with artificial grass. Our club has three natural grass pitches, one field with artificial turf and one pitch with artificial grass. Since our winters are not as severe, during that period we combined work on artificial grass with the work in the gym.

20) With this team I haven’t been abroad yet, nor have we hosted any teams from abroad., but we will try to participate in an outside tournament at some point.

21) We organize a tournament for younger ages, named after Darko Mateša, in which some of the best teams from Croatia and abroad participate. It is among the 4 strongest tournaments in Croatia. In the future we aim to initiate and organize the tournaments for other age groups as well.

Interview by Marijan Basic