Ilija Petković

Ilija Petković

Petković in 2006
Personal information
Full name Ilija Petković
Date of birth (1945-09-22) 22 September 1945
Place of birth Knin, Yugoslavia
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
–1964 Dinara Knin
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1973 OFK Beograd 212 (37)
1973–1976 Troyes AC 122 (7)
1976–1983 OFK Beograd 171 (16)
Total 505 (60)
National team
1968–1974 SFR Yugoslavia 43 (6)
Teams managed
1990–1993 OFK Beograd
1993–1995 Servette FC
1997–1998 FR Yugoslavia (assistant)
1998–1999 Avispa Fukuoka
1999–2000 Aris Thessaloniki
2000–2001 FR Yugoslavia
2001 Shanghai Shenhua
2002 Sichuan Guancheng
2003–2006 Serbia-Montenegro
2009–2010 Incheon United
2010 Al Ahli SC
2013 Gyeongnam FC

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Ilija Petković (Serbian Cyrillic: Илија Петковић; born 22 September 1945) is a retired Serbian footballer and coach. Since the early 1990s he has been a football manager, his most notable appointment being with the Serbia and Montenegro national football team. He most recently coached South Korean side Gyeongnam FC.

Playing career

He started playing football for Dinara Knin. Petković's professional playing days were divided between OFK Beograd where he spent over 16 seasons becoming one of the club's all-time best players and a 3-year stint with the French outfit Troyes AC.

OFK Beograd

When he left his hometown of Knin to come to capital Belgrade at the age of 19, Petković wasn't sure if he wanted to play football professionally. In addition to training and playing with OFK Beograd, he simultaneously enrolled in, and eventually completed the Economics college.

His first playing stint with the club lasted from 1964 until 1973. Though the club was even then in the constant shadow of its big city rivals Red Star Belgrade and Partizan, it still managed to put in many memorable league campaigns as well as to win the Yugoslav Cup in 1965/1966 season with a 5–1 final thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb.

In 1972 he played in the famous club Peñarol of Montevideo (Uruguay) where he suffered a fracture caused by the club's Nacional defense Juan Mujica.

His second stint started in 1976 after returning from France at the age of 31. Even at the twilight of his career Petković managed to be an important contributor to the team. He played until 1983, retiring from the game close to the age of 38. Unfortunately, this time around the team's overall performance wasn't as glowing as was the case during Petković's first stint. They constantly hovered around the relegation zone and couldn't avoid the drop in 1979/80 season meaning that Petković played the 1980/81 campaign in Yugoslav Druga liga. They quickly gained promotion at the end of that year and played 2 more seasons in top flight before being relegated again after 1982/83 - Petković's last playing season.

He played a grand total of 417 games for OFK, scoring 68 goals.

Troyes AF

According to the strictly enforced sporting rules of communist Yugoslavia no player was allowed to play for clubs outside the country before reaching the age of 28. Petković was no different and had to wait until 1973 to complete a move to Troyes AF where he spent three seasons.

SFR Yugoslavia national team

He quickly became a prolific midfielder in the Yugoslav First League, earning himself 43 appearances in the national team for which he scored 6 goals between 1968 and 1974.

He enjoyed an impressive debut in the national colors on 24 April 1968, at the age of 22. Yugoslavia was hosting France in the second leg of the 1968 European Football Championship quarterfinal. The score from the first leg eighteen days earlier in Marseille was 1–1 and the qualification for the final four tournament in Italy was at stake. Petković needed only 3 minutes to score his first goal in the national team, before adding another one on the 33 minute mark. Yugoslavia won 5–1 in front of a raucous home crowd at Belgrade's Partizan stadium.

He went on to play for SFR Yugoslavia in the 1968 European Championship final tournament in Italy. First up in the semi-final at Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi were the World Cup champions England. In what was perhaps the greatest ever Yugoslav football victory, Petković played a prominent part with a creative midfield display.

He also played in the 1974 World Cup in Germany, scoring a goal in the group stage 9–0 victory over Zaire.

Coaching career

Belgrade, Geneva, Fukuoka, Thessaloniki

Immediately after wrapping up his playing career Petković became a sporting director at his beloved OFK Beograd. Eventually he was named to be the first team coach, thus beginning a head coaching career. His debut stint lasted three seasons between 1990 and 1993.

He then moved on to Switzerland in 1993 where he coached Servette FC from Geneva for two seasons until 1995. At that time Swiss club football had been ruled by Grasshoppers from Zürich, a domination that Petković managed to break during his first season in charge. He led his club to the 1993/1994 championship trophy, edging their rival by just one point in a tense finish.

Around this time, UN embargo on FR Yugoslavia had been eased (thus allowing Yugoslav team sports participation again after 3 years), and his old teammate from OFK Beograd Slobodan Santrač was named to be the national team coach. In 1997 Santrač invited Petković to join the team's coaching staff as one of his assistants. Santrač was let go after a disappointing showing at World Cup 1998 and Petković went the same way.

He landed a job with Avispa Fukuoka of the Japanese J-League in 1998 and stayed there for a season.

The next port of call was Greece in July 1999 where Petković coached Aris Thessaloniki, again for just one season until summer 2000. The highlight of the season was the club's Greek National Cup campaign where it managed to eliminate powerhouse Panathinaikos but ended the competition at the semifinal stage.

National team head coach, take one

In the summer of 2000 Petković became the head coach of Yugoslavia's national team for the first time.

His appointment came on the heels of a 1–6 quarter-final exit from Euro 2000 to the Netherlands and the subsequent dismissal of head coach Vujadin Boškov. Petković had his work cut out as the team was clearly due for a major attitude and personnel overhaul if it were to qualify for the next major competition - 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

He started off well with a 2–1 friendly away win to Northern Ireland and a confident qualifier rout of Luxembourg, but the real test was scheduled to come in October 2000 against the group favorites Russia. However, due to the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević in FR Yugoslavia at the time, the game was called off and rescheduled for the early of 2001. Since the entire country was coming out of the decade-long semi-dictatorship, the new changes in society were clearly affecting football as well and the national FA was under considerable pressures from various interest groups looking to use the murky situation to gain control and influence.

In January 2001, the national team was set to depart for India to take part in a poorly organized Millennium/Sahara Cup with the likes of Bangladesh, India, and Hong Kong, as well as B teams of Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Japan, Chile and Uruguay. In the end, Petković picked a combined squad from domestic league only. On top of playing at dilapidated stadia under excruciating heat, half the world away in a next to meaningless tournament, the relations within the Yugoslav football organization were deteriorating. Rumors ran rampant about Petković getting a lucrative head coaching offer in China and his desire to leave.

Eventually, that is exactly what happened. As the FA was getting ready to pick the new leadership, Petković quit the team citing his desire to leave along with the people who brought him on - in this case the outgoing FA president Miljan Miljanić.

Shanghai, Sichuan

Petković signed a lucrative contract with Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Jia A league. He guided the team to a second place league finish and left his post at the end of the season in December 2001.

National team head coach, again

During summer 2003, Petković was named to the post of Serbia-Montenegro national team head coach by FA president Dragan Stojković. Petković's appointment came after Bora Milutinović finally rejected the offer following a month-long courthip by the FA. Mid-way through Petković's stint in summer 2005, Stojković left the FA in order to take the role of Red Star Belgrade president. New FA president Tomislav Karadžić, kept Petković at the helm of the national squad.

Petković managed to lead the team through 2006 World Cup qualifying in impressive fashion, with Serbia-Montenegro allowing only one goal in 12 matches. However, the team's showing at the World Cup final tournament in Germany was disastrous, with three losses from three matches including a 0–6 defeat at the hands of Argentina. Furthermore, Petković caused controversy ahead of the tournament when he named his son Dušan in the final squad, a move that triggered widespread outrage and condemnation. Even the former FA president, at that time Red Star president, Stojković criticised Petković publicly. Faced with the barrage of criticism, Petković's son withdrew from the squad. Since the squad list was already submitted, FIFA didn't allow a replacement to be named so that Serbia-Montenegro ended up being the only nation at the World Cup with 22 players in the squad instead of 23.

In late December 2009, Petković accused Stojković of starting the media smear campaign against him back in late May 2006 before the World Cup. Petković claimed that he refused to name some Red Star players in the final squad that the club was looking to sell at a better price by having them showcased at the World Cup, all of which prompted Stojković's ire.[1] Stojković denied such claims.[2]


In January 2009, Petković returned to coaching following a two and a half year break, signing with Incheon United of the K-League which he finished 5th league position.


On 1 July 2010 Petković joined Qatari Club Al Ahli SC as their new head coach, after changing his original plans to return home to Serbia for good due to his wife's illness.


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