Jozic has just led the Croatian team to the 2002 FIFA World Cup final round in Japan and the Korean Republic in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, and the next goal is to repeat the achievements of the 1998 final round in France, when Croatia reached the last four. As a club coach, Jozic enjoyed his greatest triumphs in Chile, where he led Colo Colo to three league championships.
He is a man of order, when jotting down his notes and organising his team and staff. He has the air of a calm and friendly but firm person, and you would not guess that he is already 61 years of age, because his black hair and relaxed impression acts as a perfect camouflage. Jozic also likes to camouflage his team’s tactics. “Coaching is the only occupation in which to ‘trick’ somebody is one of the biggest achievements! And this is very much accepted”, he says. Jozic gave UEFA an insight into his views about coaching.
UEFA: What made you want to become a coach?
Mirko Jozic: I wasn't that much of a player, and I didn't have a remarkable career. My path was a bit different. I was born at the time of the Second World War, and I practically had no childhood. I guess I wanted what any child would want, but I had so few of the nice things at that age. But a football is always a child's dearest toy, and it made me very happy. I was a second-league player, but I had enough money to live on, and so I was able to concentrate on studying teaching. By the age of 26, I started to feel that I had something of the coach in me. I started with children's teams, and moved up quickly. When I was 28, I was a player-coach at the Junak club in Sinj, a town near Split, and that was where I had my first success. I led the team (more as a coach) into the second Yugoslavian division. I was selected by the Croatian FA as an instructor/coach, and I immediately became a member of all of the teams of experts in the former Yugoslavia.
UEFA: How would you describe yourself as a coach? What are your strengths?
Mirko Jozic: I always was and still am an extremely 'studious' type of coach. I like to follow everything, and I consult a lot too, but in the end, I am the one who makes the decisions. I like to change certain elements of play during a match if necessary. I study opposing teams a lot, and how they play. Of course, my intention is always to maintain the attitude and concept of my team, but I am always ready to make some changes, in order to neutralise the opposition’s strengths. I am not scared - I take risks, and I always try to get into the other coach’s head and try to see the match through their eyes. It's a mind game. Now, I am leading a national team, so I do not have time to change the whole game of the team. Instead, I decide to make smaller adjustments.
UEFA: Do you have any major influences or role models as a coach?
Mirko Jozic: I was extremely lucky to know the coach Luka Kaliterna. He became a legend in understanding football, and had a deep influence on many of us who pursued coaching careers. He taught us the basics of modern football. He preferred short passes, passing the ball quickly, and hiding one’s intentions.
UEFA: How difficult is it for a coach nowadays to take charge, in many cases, of a team of extremely highly-paid stars?
Mirko Jozic: It's very tough, of course. Today, football is about getting a result. A result is the biggest of all your prayers. Modern coaches have to follow events in football throughout the world, and especially in Europe, in order to have a better understanding of clubs that they might join. If somebody calls me, I first take about a month to study the club and its organisation. In fact, I would rather accept a cheaper offer if a certain club has a better working environment, and I can see myself working there. You must not fool yourself, and you must not betray your beliefs and rules for somebody else’s sake. You know what it's like in films. You take a seat in a theatre with a lot of other people. Everybody watches, but only a third of them will actually see the whole picture and understand the situation. You need to see to feel - and then you make a decision.
UEFA: What advice would you give to a young coach starting out on a career with his first professional club?
Mirko Jozic: As always, anybody needs to set goals. But the coach must make sure that he knows about the realistic resources that he has available. He needs to review his own capacities - he needs to keep his eyes wide open, and, preferably, keep quiet while he is learning the game. He needs to think with his own mind, and to be aware at all times, as there are many times that he will have only a few seconds to take a decision.
UEFA: Do you have any definitive coaching and tactical philosophies which you would apply wherever you are coaching?
Mirko Jozic: I first try to understand the environment, especially the people. Before I come to a club, I do my homework. I get to know the club quite well. The money is not the primary objective. I ask the president to tell me honestly what he wants, what are the objectives, and how the club functions. Why did they sack the previous coach? Why do they want me? Then I decide whether I want the position. If the environment is good for me, if I can see myself in it, and I know that I can adjust to it, then I will take the job. With regard to team tactics, I like dynamic football with dynamic players. I like to build attacking teams.
UEFA: How important is it for a coach to have a strong and reliable technical staff around him?
Mirko Jozic: It's extremely important. A club must be well-organised. It's like track and field team races. You can have one or two great runners, but if you don't have them all in tune and synchronised, you will never achieve your objectives, and then you’ll lose everything that you have worked for. Relationships within the club have to be clean and healthy, and everybody should have their freedom and space for creativity.
UEFA: What does the future hold for you?
Mirko Jozic: There is a little flame burning inside of me for one more thing to do when I come to the end of my career. It's a debt that I feel I owe to the club in which I enjoyed my biggest successes - Colo Colo of Chile. I would be very happy if I could be part of that club once again. Not as a coach – I would just go there to give my support for a few months, in order to finish my professional work. Because I know that my appearance would give a new 'lightness' to the club. In Chile, I felt a connection with those people, I became a friend to them, and I spent the happiest time of my life there. I was a 'drop of water' when I started, and grew to be an 'ocean'. Going back to Colo Colo would be like returning to my roots.