Miroslav Blazevic, Croatia’s Legendary football coach, who guided his team to third place in the 1998 World Cup, died on Wednesday, according to the national football organization. He was 87.
“Today, the whole football family lost ‘the coach of all coaches,'” the federation posted on social media.
Blazevic died in the Croatian capital of Zagreb after a lengthy battle with cancer, prompting an outpouring of sympathy.
Croatia’s national team coach Zlatko Dalic expressed his condolences, saying he regretted his “football father… a great inspiration for all I achieved in my coaching career”.
“Ciro was unique — an unrivaled motivator and speaker… a man with tremendous flair and an even greater spirit, which is why we all liked and admired him,” Dalic added, referring to Blazevic by his famous moniker.
Blazevic, who was born on February 10, 1935, began his playing career at his hometown of Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He began coaching in Switzerland in the early 1960s and relocated to Croatia, which was then part of the former Yugoslavia, in 1979.
He managed Rijeka and then Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, when he guided the team to its first Yugoslav championship in 24 years.
Blazevic’s popularity in his home country skyrocketed when he won the title, as he was well-known for wearing stylish white scarf in public.
“Dinamo’s 1982 victory was the pinnacle of my coaching career,” Blazevic said local media in 2021.
From 1994 through 2000, Blazevic led the national team to a number of spectacular victories, including a third-place finish in the 1998 World Cup in France.
Following years of warfare during Croatia’s 1991-1995 independence struggle and the horrific breakup of Yugoslavia, the conclusion delivered a much-needed lift to the exhausted nation.
Before the 1998 World Cup, Blazevic became famous for wearing a French gendarme’s cap during games as a show of solidarity with a security officer who was gravely hurt by German football hooligans.