“I did not chose to become a coach, I knew I would be one!”

Exclusive interview with the Serbia National Team Head Coach, Ljubiša Tumbaković

Being one of the most experienced and successful Serbian Soccer Coaches of all time, Ljubiša Tumbaković is the current manager of the Serbia national team.

In Partizan he led the team to six national championship titles and three national cup wins during his two spells at the club between 1993 and 2001.

The experienced coach offered Soccer HUB / AEFCA and exclusive interview where he shared with us some of his extensive knowledge!

SH: What are the main challenges that the Serbian football faces nowadays? What about the coaches?

LT: Main challenges of the Serbian football are stabilization, continuity in some technical sense of speaking. Recognition of the style of the game needs to be established, way and method of work too, all in order to achieve stability in results when European competitions are concerned, and it does not matter if it is about club or national team football. Those are challenges coaches are encountering with, challenges related to their education and following trends both in European, i.e. world football. Of course, challenges are also linked to the improvement when trends present in everyday football methodology are concerned.

SH: What are the main challenges of the National Team Coaches faces nowadays?

LT: Challenges are related to goals. The moment one becomes a team leader or a national head-coach, as in this case, the challenge is to make a result. And one can reach a result by fundamental and systematic work. One needs to find within a player’s quality what the most interesting thing for the game is. If you manage to establish that, if you compose the team in such a way, if you opt for the right guys, i.e. for the right group of players to make a result through atmosphere, then you will win.

SH: About your career as coach: How did you start coaching and what were the main difficulties that you faced at the beginning?

LT: It is a complex question that requires a serious chronology, but I will make it as short as possible.

I did not chose to become a coach, I knew I would be one already in the period when I started playing football.

By circumstances, I finished my playing career very early, so I educated for a coach through university education. Then I started my career in one Serbian fourth league amateur club at that time, FK Radnički of Belgrade. I started with the primary team, players under 15 years of age. I improved from year to year. Difficulties were only in relation to the working conditions. It is the same story nowadays. Many Serbian clubs have no working conditions that are adequate to the ambition of certain coaches. That was my biggest problem at that time. We had a quarter of a pitch we could we perform selection on. But what is the most interesting thing in that story is that there was a great desire and ambition to achieve something even in the conditions lake those. So, from one amateur club and through ambition of people who managed that club, later on also FK Obilić, I found myself in the situation where I began to recognize myself as a coach. Things took their own course later on; I reached the senior team of FK Radnički, then also FK Partizan…

SH: Do you believe that is important to be a high level player to become a hi level coach?

LT: There are different opinions on that subject, as well as different theories. There are examples of top players with great results, but also other examples of certain coaches who were never engaged in football but have excellent achievements.

Above all, everyone must find themselves through coaching education, and it is followed by talent and sense for the work.

There is also another dimension that is related to modern sports and football – you have to be a complete person in order to achieve that, to be a pedagogue, a teacher, a psychologist… Through that coaching genesis or coaching evolution I figured out that you need to learn on everyday basis in order to be on the level or in trend of an up-to-date coach.

SH: What type of training or learning was most important in your career and evolution as a coach?

LT: Every coach has a vision, meaning philosophy, of the football game. It a sort of football belief. From my early start, I created a vision how, in a way, my team should play. You make a method of work that is adapted to that idea. As football has evolved all these years, I made a minor transformation in the very methodology of work. Then I did that, then educated myself, but essentially and conceptually I have remained on the level that is closest to me, and that is that the game possibilities are endless. That is where we are looking for some solution. The whole method of work comes to reach a result through the game.

SH: Who is a reference for you in the field of soccer training and why?

LT: To be a step, or a foot, faster, to anticipate the situation, to recognize parts of the game on the pitch at a certain moment, to cover the opponent well… The person ready to answer these requirements would be my reference in the world of football training.

SH: What are the main differences between coaching national teams and coaching clubs?

LT: In everyday work, in a weekly micro cycle, in a monthly or annual training cycle you have a process in which you are with a player on daily basis, you shape him in a way that is the most acceptable to you. You also shape him on the pitch, and out of the pitch, in a way. Oppose to that is a head-coach that leads the players he does not coach. Practically, you have five gatherings in a year. You spend maximum of ten days per gathering and that is maybe a total of less than two months. During that time you need to make something that is a goal, and that is the result. That is the big difference. And the coach needs to have great skills for that, meaning experience, knowledge, ideas how to reach that goal.

SH: What do you look for when choosing the players to the national team? Is there a profile?

LT: The profile is closely linked to the way and style of the game you recognize. Depending on the position in the team, you request certain details from players. When you make a team composition those profiles must be different. From defenders, through those who are organizers, to those who are in the finishing line. In this kind of new, modern football, or direct football, as they say, there are players who are polyvalent. And everything goes more and more in that direction, for the players who should fulfill the result form, should also have those skills, polyvalent. That would be my answer, in a way.

SH: Can you share a short story about your work that might be relevant to this interview?

LT: The most interesting in the whole story is that, from the very beginning of my work, that has been lasting for almost 40 years, I have been looking for my identity.

To be me, to be recognizable. Practically, that is defined by my football conviction, football idea.

That is why I have been looking for details closest to my way of thinking through literature and by observing coaches interesting to me. That is how I practically defined myself, through work and education and this football evolution. There is still something that is my football conviction, as I have just said, that the game possibilities are endless and that I shape my method of work only through the game. Of course, that is due to the improvement of football from year to year, due to changes, methodological way of work, due to start of the first, basic selection that used to be of the age of 10 or 11, and today is from 6, 7 years. That is why you have to step out. But essentially, my whole idea is related to the way of the game that should be recognizable.

SH: What is your vision about the “coach of the future”? What kind of path must he take to achieve excellence?

LT: The main thing is that you have to be dedicated to the work you perform. If you decided to work as a coach, you have to invest in yourself the most in order for you to be defined in the future. First and foremost is education. Read and pursue literature, follow the modern football trends, have broad education and not only in professional expertise, be friendly. These are parts of the components necessary for someone who sees themselves as a coach of the future.

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