He is one of Croatia’s leading independent football scribes, writing for popular local website Tportal, as well as writing pieces for international publications such as FourFourTwo, the Guardian, The Blizzard, 11 Freunde, the Herald, When Saturday Comes and IBWM. Meet football expert Aleksandar Holiga as he joins Croatia Week for “60 Seconds With…”. Aleksandar, welcome.
What was your earliest football memory? April 1982, a small town in Slavonia. A relative trying to persuade me I should support Dinamo Zagreb, showing me the league table in the newspaper and explaining how they will win the title for the first time in ages. Then my grandmother came and said my brother had been born. He, too, grew up to be a Hajduk supporter.
Favourite team ? Hajduk Split.
Favourite player of all time? Never really thought about that. I guess it would be either Mirsad Hibić or Ronaldinho.
Most memorable match you ever watched? First one that springs to mind is the 1993 Croatian Cup final in Split, when Hajduk defeated Croatia (how the club was called at the time) 4-1. That was epic.
You have been critical of the tactics Igor Stimac has adapted with Croatia – what is Croatia’s ideal formation and starting XI in your opinion? Football tactics are not alchemy and there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ formation. What a coach needs to do is find a system which suits the players best and utilise their characteristics in an optimal way – accentuating strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Only the coach can really know which are which at any given moment. As an outsider, I’d consider a narrow 4-3-2-1 ‘Christmas tree’ formation, which would ideally look like this at the moment: Pletikosa – Srna, Ćorluka, Lovren, Strinić – Rakitić, Vukojević, Modrić – Kovačić, Benko/Rebić – Mandžukić. Depending on the situation, we could easily switch to either 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 with those same players.
Who would you like to see manage Croatia after Stimac? I’d like to see Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp, but I’d settle with Niko Kovač. He seems to be doing a good job with the U-21s.
Favourite article (topic) you have written? Any one with a positive tone. I hate being negative, but there are so many bad things in Croatian football right now and you can’t put your face in the sand and not speak up about them. Maybe this piece on Hajduk and Dinamo, which I wrote for a wonderful football blog called In Bed With Maradona (read article here). I received nothing but praise for it from both sets of supporters – I count that among my biggest professional and personal achievements.
Maradona or Pele? Maradona.
Favourite football scribe? Jonathan Wilson. Not only a great writer; a top bloke, too.
If you were not a football writer what would you be doing? Writing is what I know best, so I’d probably be writing about something else. I was a music critic in what I like to refer to as ‘my past life’, before switching to what I always wanted – football. If I couldn’t write, then I might try organic gardening and growing food for my family and friends – something I also try to do now, but don’t have too much time for it.