The Bosnian Football Federation (FFBH) has been through difficult times, but it is now gradually moving in the right direction.
Elvedin Begić, who was elected the new president in December, visited FIFA with a FFBH delegation on 22 January. Among the group was Faruk Hadžibegić, who formerly played for Real Betis and Sochaux, coached the BIH national team and was the last captain of Yugoslavia, for whom he won 65 caps.
In an interview to FIFA, Hadžibegić – who now has an official role monitoring the FFBH as an observer – said he hopes “to never have to intervene, as that will mean everything’s going well at the federation”.
A former central defender with deep knowledge of his homeland, Hadžibegić’s playing career included spells with FK Sarajevo (1976-85), Real Betis (1985-87), Sochaux (1987-94) and Toulouse (1994-95). And, as he explained, he was also involved in BiH efforts to gain FIFA affiliation in the 1990s.
Hadžibegić recalled how, “during the Yugoslav era, BiH was the main source of players,” before adding that “the current team is very good: I can’t find many faults with it.”
“The concern is that there aren’t enough of us, and we’re a bit short on the bench,” he continued. “We’ve reached the play-offs several times, but our federation has never experienced any big events. We lack the experience to manage those situations.”
The former Arles-Avignon manager is realistic about his country’s future. And he recognises that taking a post-war country of 3.8 million people to the summit of world football is no small task.
“The challenge is huge,” he said. “We’re all from the former Yugoslavia, where football was extremely well organised. Every effort had been made to establish a great quality of football, a quality that was recognised around the world. Now, BiH must take a very big step up to reach the former Yugoslavia’s level of excellence. We’re on the right track, but there’s still lots and lots of work to do.”
The Bosnians came close to qualifying for the last two FIFA World Cups™, only to be denied in the play-offs. And their Brazil 2014 campaign, for which they are placed in Group G of the European section, has also started strongly.
“Safet Sušić, the head coach, is a real legend in Bosnia,” said Hadzibegic. “He’s doing an excellent job and the team are on track to reach Brazil. There are some important matches left, but we’ve never been so well placed to qualify.”