At the age of 35, Edin Dzeko is the star and old man of the Bosnia team, he will lead against the 2022 World Cup qualifying France on Wednesday, but he attributes his long career to the time his mother gave him football. Does not allow to play.
One day, during the bloody siege of Sarajevo, young Dezeko asks her mother if she can go out to play football. He did not say. A bomb exploded on the pitch, killing many children.
Dzeko is in the autumn of a career in which he has won league titles in Germany and England. He has scored just seven league goals in 20 Serie A matches for Roma this season and none since winning against Sampdoria in early January.
The future of Wolfsburg, Manchester City and Roma ahead was only six years old in 1992 when the war broke out.
Dzeko spent most of his childhood in Otoka, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Sarajevo, whose 30-story ruthless skyscrapers took refuge from Serbian snipers lurking in the hills above.
His father, who was in the Bosnian army, recalls that local children waited to die before throwing a ball downstream to avoid shelling.
"It was risky, but the children had to play somewhere," said the 66-year-old AFP.
The skinny fair-haired boy quickly overcrowded the concrete football pitch between the skyscrapers, and enrolled at the Academy of Zelgenzner, one of the two leading Bosnian clubs.
In the front row
Because its stadium was in the front row and filled with trenches, which trained school children.
His coach Jusuf Sehovich, who died of coronovirus last year, told AFP in 2018 that he remembered a child who was "only interested in moving toward the goal".
Izo Ahmetovic, still a coach at Zeljenzinar, remembers a Gujrati exercise involving seven boys, including Dzeko.
Some pensioners were sitting at practice from behind a fence.
"At the time, Andrey Shevchenko was the best player in the world. I turned and said, & # 39; Look at him, he is the new Shevchenko & # 39 ;, & # 39; Ahmetovic told AFP.
When Dzeko entered Zelgenzinar's senior team, it was "the height that is now (1.93m), maybe 25kg less", Amar Osim, the manager who instructed Zelgenzier told the five national team AFP.
"But he had exceptional qualities and an incredible ability to score goals," he explained. He was "obsessed" and "wanted to be a real player", Ossim recalled.
Ossim was one of the few to explore his potential.
Dzeko, who often played as a midfielder, scored just five goals in some 40 appearances for "Zelozo", and was criticized for being too slow and having poor technique.
Ziri Placić, a coach who briefly worked at Zelgenzinar, persuaded the youth of Töing to follow the Czech side Teplice.
After shipping Dzeko for peanuts, the former Zelzechniker chairman was quoted as saying that he felt the club "won the lottery" by selling Dzeko.
Determined young man
But the slim young men persevered. His partner at Tepsis, Sameer Merazik, remembers a player of "unwavering confidence".
“He was 19 when we played against Sparta Prague. He was facing Tomas Repka, who had just recently returned from a gladiator from England. But Edin confronted her without any fear ”, Merzik told AFP.
"It's all in the head," Dijko's father Mihad said.
"Edin is solid, strong, stable. He has done a lot in life and in football. He knew how to deal with pressure and how to cope.
Despite living abroad for 16 years, Dezeko maintains a close relationship with Bosnia.
He does humanitarian work with his wife Amra, focusing on sick children in poor Balkan country.
In 2012, he was in Manchester City when someone reported that a seriously ill Bosnian man was being treated in Manchester.
"I was a dozen in bed … At one point I saw Dijko, him, his mother and his father. At first I thought I was dreaming," Anar Zelik, now 24 years old, AFP told.
Dzeko took financial care of the boy's family but, above all, provided "moral support".
“Whenever he had time, he used to come to the hospital to spend time with me.
“We played board games, playstations, cards. We did not talk about our illness, but about other things, especially about the game, to make me forget all that, ”Young recalled.