National team coach Boshko Gjurovski is the next person with whom we recently conducted an interview. Read more about his new role, his approach and his career as a player.
Last week, we sat down for an interview with new Macedonian manager Boshko Gjurovski at FFM’s headquarters in Skopje. His appointment has been met positively by most football supporters in the country, but the high expectations of the public also puts pressure on Gjurovski to turn around the fortunes of the national team. Boshko is well known in Macedonia, he was a great midfielder back in the 80s and early 90s, changing only three clubs in his career: Teteks (Macedonia), Crvena Zvezda (Serbia) and Servette (Switzerland). Upon his retirement in 1995, he immediately went into coaching, first starting as an assistant coach with Servette, his last club during his playing career. Later, he also coached Serbian teams Crvena Zvezda, Radnički Obrenovac and Rad, while in the past 5 years he was the top assistant under Dragan Stojković “Piksi” in Nagoya Grampus of Japan. He is the older brother of another former Macedonian footballer in Milko Gjurovski.
The following interview is courtesy of MacedonianFootball.com and has been authorized by the Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM). Copying it without permission is prohibited.
MF: After almost 19 years you are back on the national team. You played your last game in a EURO ’96 qualifier against Belgium and now you are back in a different role. What made you accept the role of national team coach? You left a good life in Japan, was it patriotism or a career challenge?
BG: I finished in Japan and a possibility for coaching Macedonia came around. FFM were interested into talking to me for the job which was an honor for me. I think that for every person who is born in one country it is an honor to be the coach of the national team. That is also the case for me so talking about the coaching job was like they say a highlight in one’s career. You can’t deny an opportunity like that. After 19 years, in 1995 against Belgium in front of an empty stadium, that was not a good match. I was also injured, I wasn’t supposed to play but I had a big desire to play, to help, but according to the result I didn’t have a decent farewell. I’m hoping that now my comeback will be glorious.
MF: A big problem in Macedonian football is the bad physical shape of the players. It is something that is totally the opposite with the Japanese footballers. What do you think you can do to help improve this problematical issue? It is clear that not much can be done within the short gatherings of the national team, but maybe some collaboration with the domestic clubs?
BG: I can’t do anything here. I don’t know why people think that we are not ready. There must be work put in. I don’t believe that we are not ready, but we have to select players who have capacity, that is the hardest aspect. Every national team coach can’t improve the physical condition of the players, I don’t have time for that. We will work on technique and tactics, you can’t have one without the other. As for the physical condition, that is what it is. My responsibility will now be to select those players who possess the most quality and are the most ready to contribute. That is very, very difficult and can possess big problems. Many players who play on the national team play abroad. Around 90% of the squad plays abroad and of those 90%, half don’t play regularly for their club teams, I would say. I am talking about the current moment right now. That makes it very hard on us to make a balance between the first and second half. I think that’s were lies the problem for Macedonia, the last 30 minutes. The players must understand that it’s not important who starts or ends a game, but rather the final result. If I succeed in achieving that, then I think Macedonia can repeat the qualification starts of all the generations. Macedonia has always had good starts, also against strong national teams, but fell towards the end of each qualifying cycle. Is the reason for that the possible bad shape of the players or that the manager never made a good balance? I think that in some matches you don’t have to start with your best team, but instead finish the game with your best team of the field. That is my thinking. How true this is, we shall see.
MF: Have you ever thought of hiring a psychologist who could talk to the players before the games?
BG: Well, surely it is needed, but at this moment (I have thought about it) it may not be the right time for that. There is time, there is time. Another thing is that the players are very skeptical when it comes to these questions. I say that based from experience, the players are very skeptical. So yes, at this moment I need to be the psychologist and I will be the psychologist.
MF: In the previous questions you talked about the weaknesses of the team. But what are the strengths? Which formation will you be using?
BG: Well, the ideal formation for us would be to play with 12 players if possible (laughing). I’m joking. Strengths? We have quality, we have desire. We show that in the first 60 minutes. Furthermore, we have technique and speed. As a nation, we Macedonians have multiple capacities, but we are not durable. I remember when [Guus] Hiddink lead South Korea in 2002, he said they must work on endurance. The Koreans and the Japanese are like us, fast and quick on their feet, but they lack endurance. So with trainings and friendlies, he worked on that to improve their physical condition. He succeeded and they achieved good results. Surely he searched those players who are capable of playing an entire match. Those things are now structured responsibilities, that is why there is now a stamina coach who must be good, have desire, patience and understand the game. If I do that for Macedonia…. But I don’t have time in the meantime, maybe in May when we have some 10 days together and play 2 or 3 games, but again that will be mostly about technique and tactics.
MF: In our interviews with some players this winter, they mentioned that the atmosphere was not so good in the latter part of the 2014 World Cup qualifications? How do you improve it?
BG: That’s their opinion. When the results are bad, the players look for alibis at other problems. Personally, that doesn’t interest me. I think that when someone comes to play for Macedonia, for his country, I don’t know what can ruin his atmosphere. I don’t know what reason can make him give less than 100% of his abilities, and what can happen in a day or two to ruin his atmosphere. Those are individual weaknesses. That is searching for alibi for failure and I can’t agree with that. I have been here for two months since we signed the deal. I can say that the atmosphere here at FFM is great. I have been pleasantly surprised by their way of thinking. And for that, how do I say it, I was surprised by the thoughts of some of our players. To me, that is looking for an alibi for failure and looking for excuses. There. That is my thinking on the atmosphere.
MF: Have you watched tape from the U21 national team or talked with manager Boban Babunski? If so, do you see players there that could help the senior national team in the near future?
BG: Yes, yes, often. Well, in the future surely. They will be the core group of players in some of the upcoming national team over the next four years. At this moment, the best young players are needed to Boban for the qualifier against Portugal. So, he will call up all the best young players and I will allow them to play for him. As for me, I will choose [for the friendly against Latvia] from the players who finished this past qualifying cycle with Chede Janevski and Zoran Stratev.
MF: Goran Pandev said that he won’t play for the national team anymore. He chose the worst moment for that considering that nearly half ofthe UEFA national team members will earn a place at the EURO 2016.
BG: Yes, he did. I tried to contact him two-three times. I wish him a successful path. He doesn’t want to play anymore for Macedonia, and I respect his decision. He has given a lot to Macedonia and I wish him all the best. I will not return to that topic moving forward. That is done with and everything is possible even without him.
MF: So far many players with Macedonian origin have declined the offer to play for Macedonia, but most of them, according to FIFA rules, can still change their mind. Are these players still followed by the FFM or is the door simply closed for them?
BG: We have undergone quite enough steps to get the best players of Macedonian origin in the world. My message to the players, and the fans, is that on the field there is no giving up. Strong belief must be the motto of our players. Never give up and believe strongly in yourself. If we do that, to me we would have succeeded. If we call up the best players, the manager can’t make much bigger mistakes. Now, everyone has their own opinions, in the Balkans with every manager, but ultimately I’m the one who takes responsibility and there can’t be many mistakes made. If the players have strong belief and a winning mentality and characteristics, than we would have succeeded.
MF: How are the relations with your brother Milko? Will his son Mario be summoned for the Latvia friendly? What about his other son Marko, who quit football and became a singer? Do you visit your home village of Zhilche?
BG: Good, like brothers. Yes, Mario will surely be called up. He is playing great in Thailand, one league that most think is weak but I have watched the AFC Champions League there and there were no bad clubs. Mario has good character and big belief in himself, and I think, depending on him, that he can give a lot. He is now in the best footballing years and can give a lot for Macedonia. He feels obligated, he played, then didn’t play at all in the past qualifiers, so he is well motivated to give his maximum. He is the type of player with ideas, flair and character. His brother Marko was more of an aerial player. Mario was a bigger talent, his technique was better than Marko who saw that he couldn’t make a worthwhile career so he gave up football. He started composing songs and to sing. At Zhilche I go for Christmas and whenever I can when I’m here around New Years and those types of holidays. I have many childhood memories there. My father was a good player and he passed down his passion to me and Milko. I started my career at the youth academy of Teteks but I never played an official game for the seniors there as Crvena Zvezda took me early.
MF: You played 4 times for the national team of former Yugoslavia. What memories do you have?
BG: Four, no, five! I will always remember the one with Wales in Titograd [now Podgorica], 4:4 [EURO ’84 qualification game]. I was young back then and they put me in during the second half. 0:1, 1:1, 2:1, great, great game. It ended 4:4, the field was bad. Liverpool’s CF Ian Rush played in that game, he scored one, maybe two goals.
MF: Although you are originally a defensive midfielder, you’ve scored many goals. For example for Macedonia you played 7 games and even scored a hat-trick against Cyprus.
BG: Yes, I was a midfielder but I had a good sense out there. As a kid at Teteks, I have played in attack. For Crvena Zvezda, I’ve scored 102 goals in 509 games, but that included friendlies, while in official matches in the Yugoslav First League I scored 48 goals. I’ve scored goals against Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even when I was playing as a back, I was scoring. I had a nose for goal. I was like Frank Lampard, that type of player. Even when he is playing further down the field, he still scores goals.
Gjurovski’s thoughts regarding the EURO 2016 qualifications draw can be found here.
We thank the national team coach for taking the time to respond to all of our questions and we wish him well in achieving good results with Macedonia, starting with the Latvia friendly on 5 March.
* Note: The interview with Gjurovski was done last Monday, so we were not able to ask about the status of Nikolche Noveski. Rumors about Noveski’s retirement from the national team surfaced later in the week after our interview already took place.