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Ilija Petković (Serbian Cyrillic: Илија Петковић) (born September 22, 1945 in Kninmarker, Yugoslavia) is a retired Serbianmarker footballer. Since the early 1990s he's been a football manager, his most notable appointment being with the Serbia and Montenegro national football team.

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 Belgrademarker 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 memorable 5-1 final thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb.

His second stint started in 1976 after returning from Francemarker 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 ripe old 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 AC

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 AC 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 April 24, 1968. 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 Marseillemarker was 1-1 and the qualification for the final four tournament in Italymarker 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. It was a dream debut for the 22-year-old en route to 5-1 thrashing of the French in front of a raucous home crowd at Belgrade's Partizan stadiummarker.

He naturally went on to play for SFR Yugoslavia in 1968 European Championship final tournament in Italy. First up in the semifinal at Florencemarker'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 1974 World Cup in Germany, scoring a goal in the group stage 9-0 rout of Zaire.

Coaching career

Belgrade, Geneva, Fukuoka, Thessaloniki

Immediately after wrapping up his playing career Petkovic 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 Genevamarker for two seasons until 1995. At that time Swiss club football had been ruled by Grasshoppers from Zurich, 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 Santrac was named to be the national team coach. In 1997 Santrac invited Petković to join the team's coaching staff as one of his assistants. Santrac 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 Petkovic 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 humiliating 1-6 quarterfinal exit from Euro 2000 to Holland and the subsequent dismissal of head coach Vujadin Boskov. 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 Koreamarker and Japanmarker.

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 political turmoil in FR Yugoslaviamarker at the time (Milosevic regime overthrow) the game was called off and rescheduled for the spring 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 Chinamarker 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 Miljanic.

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.

Korea

Ina January 2009, Petković returned to coaching following a two and a half year break, signing with Incheon United of the K-League.

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