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A tale

Edin Džeko interview

žeko
Edin D ard way,
u p the h Sarajevo

of two
ca m e n
th e war i y
survivin g
a big -mone
ome ter
to bec ith Manches
w on
signing athan Wils
on
City. J th e humble
meet s r
osn ian strike
B

“As a kid I
lived in fear
of losing my
life or a family
member being
killed. War made
my everyday
cities
DIN DŽEKO was six when the war
began in Bosnia, his homeland. As
Sarajevo was besieged by Serbian
troops, his parents’ house was
destroyed, so he went to live with
Džeko’s mother, Belma, hated letting her son out
of her sight, and recalls how close he once came to
death. “Every time Edin went out I felt afraid,” she
says. “I know it was crazy, but I couldn’t forbid him to
play. He was just a kid. There was one time when he

problems seem his grandparents, the whole family – a dozen people,


sometimes more – living in an area of around 35
begged to go out, but I had a strange feeling and said
no. A few minutes later a bomb hit the playground. A

smaller . . . when it
metres square, the equivalent of two small rooms. lot of kids died that day. We were often hungry and
During the four-year siege, football provided a thirsty, but that never stopped him playing.”

images Joern Pollex / GETTY IMAGES


release, but it also brought life-threatening dangers. Inevitably, the war left its mark on Džeko. “It was

is hard sometimes, At least 1000 – some estimates say as many as 3000


– children were killed in the conflict.
awful,” he said. “As a kid for four years I lived in fear of
losing my life or of a member of my family or a friend

I remember Hajro Bojadži was a coach who used to take teams


to compete in futsal tournaments. “Džeko was one of
being killed. But that was 15 years ago and we have
to look to the future. War made my everyday problems

it could be a small group of kids I’d take to play in tournaments


held in school gyms during the war,” he recalls. “We’d
seem much smaller and when it is hard sometimes,
I just remember that it could be much worse. But, I

much worse” walk many kilometres, going from houses to other


places under cover to avoid snipers. It was a very
dangerous time, but though the boys were always
have to say, I’m trying not to think about war.”
It hardly compares to life under the siege, of
course, but Džeko’s early days in football weren’t
hungry they played with huge smiles on their faces.” easy either, and perhaps the sense of perspective

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“His arrival may
he’d developed helped him through those first years. When Džeko joined them for £27m ($42m) from and, perhaps most importantly, relatively free from
His father took him to Želježnicar, one of the two big Wolfsburg at the end of the first week of January, City ego. And that is where he really departs from the
Sarajevo clubs. Its stadium stands in Grbavica, which trailed Manchester United by two points. Within a Marsh template: his arrival may have disrupted City’s

have disrupted City’s lay on the frontline during the war, and the first thing
players and officials had to do when the siege was
month that gap had grown to eight as City picked up
just four points from their first three games with Džeko
tactics but his reputation is as a thoroughly likable
man, decent and helpful, and free from the aloofness

tactics but he is a lifted was to clear the pitch of mines.


His first coach was Jusuf Šehovic. “Edin was 10
in the side (although he was named the club’s player
of the month for January).
that makes so many footballers such difficult people
to deal with.

thoroughly likable years old when I started working with him,” Šehovic
says. “We worked in a half-destroyed stadium, in
With Džeko’s arrival came the need for a tactical
realignment within the team. Perhaps it was not the
Certainly my own experience of him backs that up. I
was interviewing him once on the terrace of a hotel just

man, decent and terrible conditions, but those kids had a great will to
work. I never forced Edin to attack, but he decided to
best moment, coming as City, a club throwing plenty
of money at the challenge in front of them, appeared
outside Sarajevo before a World Cup qualifier between
Bosnia and Turkey when after about 10 minutes he was

helpful, and free try, and with his skills and height it was his destiny. He
was serious at every practice, and he stood out in his
to be finding some sort of rhythm after a stuttering
start to the season. Unfortunately the player most
called away by the press officer. I thought that would
be the last I saw of him, but he returned apologetically

from the aloofness


generation. That is what opened the doors of the first affected by the need for a new system was Carlos explaining he’d had to have his photograph taken
team, and later got him to the Czech Republic.” Tevéz, probably City’s stand-out player this season. with the prime minister. A local journalist told me of
At the time, that move from Želježnicar to Teplice The move may make long-term sense, but in the a time he’d popped in unexpectedly to visit Džeko at

that makes many seemed a baffling one. He had made his first-team
debut as a 17-year-old, but his style of play was alien
short term its effect was to knock City out of their stride.
So how did things change? Previously Tevéz had
Wolfsburg. A big VW conference meant there were no
hotel rooms to be had, so Džeko handed over the keys

footballers difficult to a football culture that prized technical over physical


attributes and fans nicknamed him ‘Kloc’, the local
operated as a false nine, dropping deep and linking
with the midfield three, leaving a vacuum into which
of his flat and spent the night at his girlfriend’s.
Plenty of footballers who’ve grown up in crushing

to deal with” slang for a lamp post. “When I put Džeko in the squad
for a first time, some colleagues called me crazy,”
the wide men – two of David Silva, James Milner,
Adam Johnson and Jo – could drift.
poverty have rapidly sealed themselves inside the
gilded bubble, so it may be that Džeko is just a good
remembers Nikola Niki, who was Bosnia’s Under 19 Džeko is more of a fixed point; he can pull wide, bloke by nature.
coach at the time. “They asked me why I’d called up and he is certainly not the old-fashioned target man “I really don’t need luxury,” he says. “I’m just a
this useless guy, and I said that he had the capacity to some portraits have suggested, but he is nowhere regular guy, I have a lot of friends and love to spend my
become great player. Nobody believed it.” near as mobile or as comfortable linking play as time with them. In my time in Teplice there were days
When Teplice offered €25,000 (A$33,000) for Tevéz. His inclusion has meant Tevéz playing to his that I didn’t have enough money, but that’s normal for a
him, one of Želježnicar’s directors admitted “we left, but with the Argentinean’s tendency to go looking young player away from home.
thought we’d won the lottery”. Two years later he for space – the very quality that made him so effective “I think I’m not different than I used to be as a kid,
joined Wolfsburg for €4m (A$5.3m). He was still raw, as a false nine – City have, on occasion, been left playing in Sarajevo. I try to have good relationship
but, in Germany, Felix Magath moulded him into the short of width. In time, an accommodation probably with fans, anyone who wants a photo or autograph,
devastating forward he became in the Bundesliga. will be found – particularly given that Tevéz’s drifting I do my best . . .”
“The secret? Hard work,” says Džeko, who turns infield should open space for Aleksandar Kolarov, a Džeko may or may not be a success at City, but if
25 this March. “And more hard work. When I got to naturally attacking left-back. Džeko is gifted, intelligent he fails, it won’t be because of his ego.
Wolfsburg, in my first season, I didn’t score with my
head. Magath decided to work with me on that for
whole summer. And of course I was much better.”
His last two-and-a-half seasons at Wolfsburg
brought 58 goals and 31 assists, a record that
suggests both his effectiveness and his unselfishness,
which might yet prove his greatest strength as he tries
to carve out a career in the Premier League with a club
Stephen Ireland described as “a viper’s nest of egos”.

I N 1972, Rodney Marsh joined a Manchester City


side that was four points clear at the top of the
league. By the end of the season, they had slipped
to fourth. Marsh himself has suggested his style of
play didn’t gel with that of his teammates; some of
his teammates have suggested it was his personality
that was the disruptive factor; but either way, Marsh
has become the byword for a player who, for all his
gifts, unsettles a team that had previously looked on
course for success. Faustino Asprilla followed the
paradigm after he joined Newcastle in 1996-97 and
found his goals insufficient to prevent a 12-point lead
being squandered. And, inevitably, whenever any new
forward arrives at City midway through a season the
question is asked: is he another Rodney Marsh? Džeko was hugely
successful during his
Usually the question is fatuous, given City have
time with Wolfsburg
rarely been anywhere near glory since 1972, but this in Germany
season a title challenge was, for a while, credible.

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