Childhood in the shadow of war, the huge Bosnia Basketball scandal and comparisons to Zlatan – Nihad Đedović comes to Israel

By Itai Oren

From an early age, Nihad Đedović dreamed of playing for Bayern Munich. HIs parents left Bosnia for Munich soon after he was born and along with Željezničar Sarajevo, Bayern was his favorite team in the entire world. However, it wasn’t the Bayern that he plays for today, but Bayern’s football club.

He happened upon basketball as a youngster, When he was seven years old once the war was over in Bosnia, Nihad returned to Sarajevo with his parents but couldn’t play football as he had one done in Munich. Everything was destroyed he said in an interview with the Euroleague website roughly a year ago. There was chaos in the streets and it was impossible to play. Luckily, his father who was an amateur basketball player heard that a brand new basketball club was opening in the city and he sent Nihad and his younger brother (who is also a basketball player) there to play. His talent was spotted by Barcelona and at the age of 16 the prestigious club signed him to a long term contract. But he never ended up getting playing time and they sent hi on loan to the third division and then to the second.

After a favorable impression, Đedović who was now 20 years old was loaned to Virtus Roma where he had his big breakout. From Italy he went to Galatasaray in Turkey and then to Alba Berlin in Germany until he finally made it all the way full circle to the club he had rooted for as a child, Bayern Munich. Last summer, just as he began his 8th season with the club he was named captain but Nihad’s life story and career, that had gone hand in hand also created a huge scandal.

After playing for the Bosnian National Teams at a young age, Đedović surprisingly decided to quit. He was a candidate to receive German citizenship and at that time one couldn’t hold dual citizenship as a Bosnian. Đedović who recalled the destruction throughout the streets in Sarajevo had just become a father and wanted to secure a better future for his family just as his parents did when they had moved to Munich. In addition, as a foreign player in the Euroleague, European citizenship was preferred as well for financial reasons.

Once the citizenship law had changed in Bosnia it was clear that he would play for his country of birth who had just begin their preparations for the European championships. He met with the Bosnian Basketball Association secretary anf asked if he could help him fill out the correct forms in order to obtain citizenship as a returning Bosnian. However, following the meeting the secretary put up a post on Facebook accusing Đedović of being lazy for not wanting to fill out the forms himself and called him a moron as well.

Bosnian journalist Haris Mrkonja explained, “I called Nihad to tell hims about the secretary’s post and he was stunned. Not only for the fact that he had played for years in the national team program including two European Championships, he was also one of the few players that loaned the association money as they were always in debt in order for them to properly prepare for qualifiers. He felt betrayed.”

In an interview with Mrkonja following the event, Đedović if he would ever return to the national team. Nihad replied that because of people like the association’s secretary he has no desire to play for his birth country again and that he now understands that he had made the correct decision when he took German citizenship. If Bono received honorary Bosnian citizenship they can certainly grant me as well if they wanted to.

Since then Đedović has focussed on his club team with the dream of turning Bayern Munich into a team that will fight for European glory just like the football club. Until then, his connection with football will have to remain outside the field of play as he receives 15-20 requests a day to take selfies, believing that he is the star striker Zlatan Ibrahimović. It’s easy to mistake one for the other as they are both tall and their facial features are very similar including the beard. Over the last few years he decided to cut off the ponytail as he had just had enough with the comparison.

Unlike Zlatan, Nihad has experienced a slight decline in his play this past season, but he is still averaging 8.5 points per game in the Euroleague, his lowest since arriving at Bayern. Last season his high was 19 points against Maccabi Tel Aviv as he helped the club defeat the Yellow & Blue for their first win over the Israeli club in its history.

On Wednesday he will step on the Yad Eliyahu floor as the captain of Bayern Munich and after a good start to the season in which the German squad almost defeated a tough Milano team and beat Alba Berlin, Đedović wants to prove that he can in fact take Munich to the top of Euroleague just as he had dreamed to do.

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