The Slovenia Times

The Fans Want him Back



Katanec was born in Ljubljana on July 16th, 1963. He started playing football at the age of 7 with FC Ljubljana. In 1981, he went to Olimpija Ljubljana and the leading Yugoslav clubs soon recognized his talent. Four years later he signed with Dinamo Zagreb and in 1986 with Partizan Belgrade, who became the national champions in 1987. Success with Stuttgart and Genoa Srecko's international career began in Germany in 1988, when he joined VfB Stuttgart. They reached the final of the UEFA Cup the following year where they played, and eventually lost to, Napoli, who were one of the biggest Italian clubs at the time with the likes of Diego Armando Maradona in their squad. Katanec only stayed in Germany for one season and in 1989 he signed for Sampdoria Genoa. In his first season there they won the European Cup Winners' Cup. Five caps for Slovenia Katanec was selected for the Yugoslav national team and played in the 1984 European Championships in France, but he has fonder memories of the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles where Yugoslavia won the bronze medal. He also played successfully in the qualifying rounds of the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy and in doing so he became the third Slovene to play at a World Cup. He played in 3 of Yugoslavia's 5 matches before the team was beaten on penalties in the quarter-finals by Argentina. Those were his last three games for Yugoslavia, in all he was capped 31 times and scored 5 goals. He then played 5 matches for Slovenia, scoring once, although his only official match was a qualifying game for the European Championships in 1996. He ended his playing career after his contract with Sampdoria expired. A brave move Katanec wanted to become a football coach. In 1996, he co-coached the Slovenian U-21 team with Drago Kostajnsek. Meanwhile, he successfully completed his coaching certificate and in 1998 he became the coach of HIT Gorica. The Slovenian national team did not play well during the 1998 World Cup qualification series and the coach, Zdenko Verdenik, was replaced by Bojan Prasnikar, the coach of Maribor. The Slovenian Football Federation then surprised a lot of people when they bravely decided to hand the reins to Katanec, an inexperienced coach. He made an inauspicious start to his new career and a lot of commentators became very pessimistic when the team lost his first game in charge, 1:2 against Hungary, in August 1998. Katanec then led his team very successfully through the qualifying rounds of the 2000 European Championships and they managed to qualify for the finals held in both Belgium and the Netherlands. Slovenia beat the Ukraine in the decisive home-and-away playoff matches to reach the finals (2:1 in Ljubljana and 1:1 in Kiev). Football mania in Slovenia had started and Srecko became a national hero. Slovenia played well at EURO 2000 and even had a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals. They started with a draw against Yugoslavia (3:3). Almost 12,000 Slovenian fans were in the Amsterdam Arena to witness the 2:1 victory against Spain, albeit with a lot of luck. Slovenia then had to beat Norway to go through, but only managed to draw 0:0, which wasn't enough. Slovenia also qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea after defeating Romania in another crucial home-and-away playoff series. This time the team didn't perform so well and lost all their matches - against Spain (1:3), South Africa (0:1) and Paraguay (1:3). However, the most disappointing aspect was his huge locker-room argument with the team's superstar, Zlatko Zahovic, after the match against Spain in Gwangdju. As a result, Katanec resigned immediately after their World Cup campaign had ended. Will he try again? Since then he has coached Olympiacos and earlier this year he was under serious consideration to take over as the coach of Croatia. After Slovenia lost a 'friendly' match in Switzerland in April this year, coach Bojan Prasnikar was sacked. According to most surveys, more than 70 % of respondents were in favour of Srecko Katanec returning as coach. However he didn't want to come back - at least not so soon. Srecko enjoys his free time with his family and he loves to play tennis and running to Smarna Gora. He remains the most popular football personality in Slovenia.


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