From the beginning to Foggia
“Zemanland always exists, I want to give emotions”. If we had to describe what Zeman gave to football and what football gave to the Bohemian coach, this statement would be perfect. The coach is back this year to coach once again on the bench of Foggia, a team that meant a lot to him. But his umpteenth return on a bench is just as poetic as his long and tortuous path in the history of Italian football.
Born in Prague on 12 May 1947, Zeman began his coaching career in 1983, when the president of Licata, Giuseppe Alabisio, decided to hire him. The Bohemian coach thus begins his climb always higher: twelfth in the C2 series in the first year as a coach, promotion the following year, salvation the year after in C1. His bubbling game is noticed by more and more people, who start to follow his deeds with an eye for consideration.
Very high defense, off-game trap, goalkeeper more and more involved in the game, constant overlapping and zone pressing, frequent “inserimenti” without ball, constant dribbling search and maximum confidence in young talents: With this mentality Zeman prepares to play a leading role in the various categories of our football.
After spending a short period between Foggia and Parma, in 1988 he moved to Messina in Serie B, where he conquered an eighth-place and above all discovered the future champion Totò Schillaci. The Foggia recalls him in 1989 in Serie B: with the president Pasquale Casillo and the sports director Giuseppe Pavone, was born the famous “Foggia of miracles“, characterized by an offensive 4-3-3, where stand out the talents of Francesco Baiano, Giuseppe Signori and Roberto Rambaudi.
After winning the Serie B championship with the best attack of the championship, even in Serie A managed to achieve excellent results, always ensuring entertainment and fun.
The experience in Rome
For the 1993-94 season, Zeman was signed by Lazio, with whom he scored a second place in the Serie A league, always with the best attack of the competition. The philosophy of the coach does not change over the years: attacking the opponent, winning respecting the rules, innovating without the fear of losing. The following year the Bohemian has the merit of discovering a rising star of Italian football: a young Alessandro Nesta. His third and final year at Lazio ended with a sacking in a really complicated season, but he has yet another merit to have discovered another absolute champion: Pavel Nedved.
In the 1997/98 season Zeman stayed in Rome, but changed sides to Giallorossi colors. President Franco Sensi asked him to coach Roma and the coach accepted with great enthusiasm. The Giallorossi play an exciting championship, finishing the season in fourth place, once again with the best attack of Serie A.
In 1998 the case of doping broke out and the Bohemian coach did not remain indifferent, so much so as to speak explicitly of “football that must go out from pharmacies and financial offices” and causing the reaction of many people within the Italian football scene. Roma continue to have the best attack in Serie A and meanwhile Zeman manages to complete the consecration of Francesco Totti, while reaching their peak even players like Damiano Tommasi, Eusebio Di Francesco, Luigi Di Biagio and Marco Delvecchio. In May 1999, after a fifth place in the league, Zeman left Roma.
From Turkey to Puglia
In 1999 Zeman began his experience at Fenerbahce, which lasted only three months, between environmental difficulties and a lack of understanding with his players. In 2000 it’s time for the adventure at Napoli, with the newly promoted Azzurri team in Serie A. Zeman makes the demands of the transfermarket very precise, but first the misuderstandings with the company and then with the players inevitably lead to the sacking, after two meager points won in 8 games.
The Bohemian remained in Campania years later, on the bench of Salernitana and then Avellino. At the head of the Irpini, Zeman “lancia” the Belarusian Vitali Kutuzov, but this is not enough to prevent the relegation and the consequent separation from the team. In the 2004/2005 season Zeman returns to Puglia, precisely to Lecce: here he makes Mirko Vucinic and Valeri Bojinov start off. Despite a championship that ended with the best attack, the worst defense of the season persuades the club leaders to separate from his technical guidance and turn the page.
There were followed more or less negative experiences between the bet lost with Brescia, the negative return to Lecce, and the sad page with the Red Star of Belgrade, which ended with an early release.
…we go back to dream
In 2010 the old president Pasquale Casillo buys back the Foggia and hires again Zeman as coach, completing with Giuseppe Pavone the historical triad to return to dream with the “Foggia of miracles“. After only one season, however, Zeman passes to Pescara, where he writes another important page of Italian football history. At the head of the Biancocelesti, the Bohemian scored a resounding victory of the “cadet championship”, discovering and making debut the talents Insigne, Immobile and Verratti.
Zemanland is increasingly alive so much, so that Roma decides to focus again on the manager, but it disappoints expectations and is sacked. Then follow the experiences at Cagliari, Lugano and again at Pescara until 2018. And so, after a few years away from the football fields, Zeman returns in 2021 for the fourth time coaching his Foggia. The manager comes up with clear ideas: “I have no regrets, I do not regret anything. I came back because I still want to give something to football, always respecting the rules”.
By Giovanni Maggio