Doha, 9 October 2019. Day 3 of the ”Aspire Academy Global Summit” featured an exciting football coach, who has proven to make teams perform well under tense circumstances: Slaviša Jokanović, 51-year-old coach from Serbia, currently in charge of Qatar Stars League-club Al-Gharafa and former coach of prestigious clubs in England such as Fulham or Watford, took the time to share some of his experiences with the Fellows in a Star Chat on Wednesday morning.
Working under pressure is something that Slaviša Jokanović is quite familiar with. When he joined English Championship-club Watford in 2014, he was their fourth coach in five weeks. Out of this tough situation he led the club to the Premier League with 15 wins out of 20 games. “I was facing a strange situation when I came to Watford. Former coaches had left the club for different reasons in a very short period of time and I noticed that the only way to get the team back on track was to clear the dressing room and remove five players. After that the remaining players became a compact group, they were acting more seriously and started to believe that they were able to get promoted.”
In his first coaching job, he faced a different kind of pressure. In 2007, the former midfielder, that won the La Liga-title alongside star players such as Djalminha, Mauro Silva and Roy Makaay in 2000 as a player, took over Partizan Belgrade. “That was a very emotional thing for me. I was a supporter and a player of Partizan before and suddenly I was the club’s head coach, which was the biggest responsibility I could have ever imagined.” Despite being still in a learning process as young coach, he immediately had success: In season 2007-08 the club triumphed in the league and in the cup and defended both titles for the first time in club history in the following 2008–09 season.
Having made himself a name in England for being the right man for challenging missions, he was hired in 2015 by Championship side Fulham in mid-season and saved them from being relegated. Asked if his character as a player might have influenced his development as a coach, he said that “I don’t remember much of my playing days, but what I remember is that I was always very competitive and that I was doing everything I could to win a game.”
In his opinion there is no secret, why had been so successful in overcoming obstacles as a coach. “Confidence is very important in this job and that you are able to be a good observer. In the end, the players are the key to success. My job as a coach is to improve them by using different tools and encourage them, so they start to trust in themselves and to trust in their teammates. Once in a while you have to be a father, a teacher, a brother or a doctor to them. But that’s part of the job. If players could do everything by themselves, they would not need coaches.”