By AZ Aamir
Highly professional and former Pakistan football coach Zavisa Milosavljevic of Serbia has been very disciplined and shrewd personality. During his two-year stint as Pakistan coach seven years ago Zavisa gave a new strength to the Green-shirts. He worked hard to hone the skills of Pakistani footballers and a great change was seen in the national brigade under the Serbian who is pro license.
I have no words for Zavisa to explain what a disciplined man he was. After leaving Pakistan job he served the country in a different way later. He adjusted Pakistan’s key players in Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek and that was indeed a beginning for the country’s footballers in professional leagues. Kaleemullah, Pakistan’s star striker, after playing under Zavisa, went on to play leagues in the United States, Turkey, Russia and Iraq. And is now a more mature striker. Although he did not get ample opportunity to represent Pakistan because during the last five years not more football activities happened due to legal issues of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
But Pakistan is indebted to Zavisa as he respected the nation a lot during his stay here and is still very much attached with the Pakistan’s football lovers and major stakeholders.
Zavisa in the near past had a solid stint with the Uzbekistan Olympic team as an assistant coach. And his association with his friend and head coach Ljubinko Drulović, also the ex-Yugoslavia national team, Porto FC, Benfica FC and Partizan FC winger, yielded good results.
Uzbekistan finished fourth in the 2020 AFC Under-23 Championships, which served as qualifiers for Tokyo Olympics. They lost to Australia narrowly 1-0 in the third place play-off which denied them the opportunity to earn seat for Tokyo Olympics.
Now ask Zavisa and he will tell you how was his stint with Uzbekistan Olympic team and his impression about Uzbekistan football and it’s people and culture.
“It was an honour for me to serve Uzbekistan Olympic team as a coach. Any coach needs to be a coach of any national team and I did feel really well in the capacity during my stay in Uzbekistan,” Zavisa told thecricketplus.com in an exclusive interview.
“In the Asian Championships in Thailand last January Uzbekistan finished fourth after we lost semi-final to Saudi Arabia 1-0 before we conceded the third place game against Australia also 1-0 to miss the Olympics spot. But in the previous 28 matches we just lost one friendly and one official. These two losses made our results bad but Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) is very satisfied. We made big progress in developing football at youth and Olympic level,” Zavisa said.
“If we talk about the results of Uzbekistan Olympic qualifiers so I am happy as we produced solid result,” he said.
“Football is No1 sport in Uzbekistan. They have well-organised Super League, second-tier league and a lot of other tournaments and competitions. They have National Cup, League Cup and during a year they give around 50 matches to their players. It is a great number of matches and it instills great confidence in players and make them mature for any top national duty,” Zavisa said.
“Their top clubs also play international matches and fully support quality of Uzbekistan football. If we look at their national team you will be amazed to know that they narrowly missed World Cup spot by one goal. But I hope in future they will be in the World Cup,” Zavisa conceded.
“Firstly Uzbekistan is South Central Asian country. This is on the Silk Route and it’s culture and hospitality of its people is very nice.They have very fantastic food and we were very comfortable there. I can say this was one of my most satisfactory jobs in my career. I can say that I have great and positive experience of my life in Uzbekistan,” Zavisa said.
“It’s not an issue for me to work as head coach or assistant coach. I have a lot of experience as head coach of many teams of Super League clubs around Africa and Asia. It was an honour for me to work with my friend and Uzbekistan head coach Ljubinko Drulović. And finally we pulled off nice result,” he said.
“Uzbekistan has professional league. Every year their minimum two clubs play in the AFC Champions League and four clubs in the AFC League. Their majority of players can get international experience. They also have a good quality of domestic league and good championships. Most of the clubs have good facilities, big stadia. A huge crowd comes to see every match. Football is very very popular and top sport of Uzbekistan,” he said.
“Uzbekistan has a population of around 37million. If we compare it with Pakistan so in Pakistan you will see cricket being played in every street. In Uzbekistan football is being played everywhere and is the nation’s top sport. It has a strong league system. Its clubs have academies which focus on grooming kids from five to seven years of age (both male and female). These academies have national basis. One bigger option of developing football is to focus on kids at the earliest stage,” Zavisa said.