Anel Ahmedhodzic was born 24 years ago in Malmo, Sweden, and grew up in the Rosengard neighbourhood. As a 5-year-old he played football with his friends, wearing a jersey with name of Edin Dzeko, the captain of Bosnian national team. Today, he shares the locker room with the Bosnian 'Diamond' and brings joy to the national team's fans. He made the “first steps” in football in Malmo, but he eventually moved to England where he continued building up his career. Today he plays for Sheffield United.
Ahmedhodzic passed through all Sweden's teams from juniors to seniors, but he decided to join the Bosnian team.
“I felt in my heart that Bosnia and Herzegovina was the right choice,” he told N1.
He has become a favourite of the fans soon enough. Today, he is the most expensive member of the national team on the market with the value of 20 million euro.
Congratulations on the great season with Sheffield United. All players are gone for vacation, but you decided to come to Sarajevo and get a Bosnian passport for your son Isak?
“That was the plan, that's why I'm here. I was collecting the documents over the past days, I had to go to various places to get it all done. I had no chance to get some rest before the gathering (of the national team). The paperwork will be done soon and we need to wait for a while before Isak becomes the citizen of BiH.”
How does it feel like to be a father?
“That's the best feeling ever. I never cry, but when my son was born I couldn't stop tears. My emotions show this is the best thing I've done and experienced in my life.”
Is your son Isak Ahmedhodzic going to take his father's steps in the jersey of Edin Dzeko?
“He will hopefully be even better than me, Dzeko and all of us.”
Your wife Marijana often posts photos of you doing some housework, like the snow cleaning in England?
“Well, someone had to do that, and that someone was me. I was surprised by snow in England. I was told it only rains, and never snows. They lied to me.”
Are you flattered now that Bosnians and Herzegovinians come to you for photos?
“That's new for me in Bosnia. I used to walk around Bosnia – and nothing. It was all private. But now as I'm strolling Bascarsija (square) in Sarajevo, it feels nice, to be someone's role model.”
How many languages does Anel Ahmedhodzic speak?
“Let me see. Swedish, Bosnian, English, Danish and some French. Bosnian was the first language I learnt. That's how I talked to my dad and mom. Then I learnt Swedish. As I grew older, my Bosnian got better, but then I left for England and there was no one I could speak to in Bosnian. It is coming back now and I will improve it.”
How was it, growing up in the Rosengard neighbourhood, Malmo?
“When I was a kid, my father and I used to go to see my uncle. We took to a bar and hung out all together. They were drinking and I was little so I couldn't do it. We were watching the national team and when the anthem played we all stood up and sang. I got chills then and I always do. Anytime I play for Bosnia and Herzegovina this moment crosses my mind and it will always be the best feeling.”
We saw an interesting photo from your childhood. You are holding the Bosnian flag and wearing Edin Dzeko jersey, and there is a Lionel Messi wallpaper hanging behind you.
“I remember when I was in school, when we had to take those professional photos. Everyone was wearing some nice clothes and I was wearing Manchester City jersey with Dzeko's name. Everyone had a school memory in their nice clothes, and mine was in Edin Dzeko's jersey. Some were laughing, and some said that's how it had to be.”
You want to be a role model to young people, but you also say that money and luxury should not be in the foreground? What do you want to show young people?
“I don't like to put things on social networks. I would rather show how I came to all that I have today. I'm a bit private. Money was never my priority. I love football. I remember when I was a kid I didn't have much. My father and mother tried to make sure that we had what others had. We had a PlayStation and iPhone, but sometimes we didn't have money for food. I know what it's like not to have. That's why I don't like to show material things. I am simple. I play FIFA when I get home. People write to me and ask which club I will choose. I enjoy the little things. All my life, I would come home from training and turn FIFA on. My wife doesn't like me to do that. Now FIFA is suffering, I have another priority – my son.”
What was it like to come from poverty to a situation that you can provide your parents with everything they want? You told your mother she doesn't have to work anymore?
“It's the nicest thing I can do for them. The best thing I've done. I remember when I was a kid, my dad told me: ‘You can't play PC games unless you train.” I had to train sometimes, even though I was tired. He made me work. I put so much effort. When I was 16, I had to go to England alone and I met a friend from France. Life in England is not easy. They made me run.”
After you returned from Nottingham Forest to the senior team of Malmo, it looked like it was then that the real football story of Anel Ahmedhodzic started?
“I returned in 2019 to Malmo. It didn't go well at first. Then I went to the Danish Hobro. The coach was Sorensen and he was very strict, but fair and helped me a lot. Even though he was yelling at me. I was a little kid, I didn't know everything and I acted like I knew a lot and everything. Hobro is a small club, but was like a family, I will always remember them fondly.”
Which striker was the hardest to guard? You played against Erling Haaland, the best striker in the world for the many?
“We were defending throughout the game, so it wasn't difficult to keep en eye on him. But I could only imagine how it would be if we had played pressing then it would have been more difficult. We should have blocked Mahrez more because he scored three goals.”
There must be many offers you receive regarding your career?
“There is a lot of interest. I can't reveal anything, but they are clubs from the Big Five. It would be foolish to leave Sheffield United. I fought all season to bring the club to the Premier League. It wouldn't be wise to leave now. Everything can change.”
Which club is your dream? Where would you like to play?
“When I was younger, before Dzeko went to Manchester City, I would say Barcelona. But now, since I started following City, now I say Manchester.”
Do you get along with Edin Dzeko? How much does Edin help young players?
“He is the best leader I have ever had. A gentleman. I remember the first time I came, he hugged me, said to me and Dennis Hadzikadunic: ‘You will take us to the World Cup’. But we lost to Northern Ireland and I'm still disappointed. I feel that I owe him one European Championship.”
Who is the most deserving that you now play for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
“(Zvjezdan) Misimovic, that's a simple answer. I had the first contact with him. I talked to him about Bosnia. He asked me if I would play for Bosnia, and I said YES.”
Who is the best entertainer in the national team?
“Hadzikadunic is the funniest. He always says stupid things. Ibrahim Sehic is always serious in training and wants to fight in training. He takes training sessions as a match.”
What is your relationship with (coach) Faruk Hadzibegic and how is it different from (former coach) Ivaylo Petev?
“I didn't have much time with Faruk, but he is solid, engaged in training. We didn't have much time for tactics in March. Petev was good, I liked working with him. He gave me the chance to play. We made good results.”
We start the qualifiers against Portugal, a team that has big stars on its roster? What are our chances and can we stop them?
“I can't wait for the game, it will be interesting. We always play well against slightly stronger teams. It will be a tough game. They are only humans. We must not have too much respect for them. If we do what we need to do, then of course we can win, why not?”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Swedish. It is interesting that your first neighbours growing up were the Ibrahimovic family?
“I remember when I was a kid, he was my role model and he always will be. He made one pitch in Rosengard where I grew up while he was playing for Juventus. There was a ceremony, he signed the ball and kicked it. There were a thousand people. My father caught it. I made a mistake, I played with that ball every day and it was ruined. I'm so sad about it.”
Will Zlatan sign a new ball?
“I would like a new one, but the same, gray, Yoga Bonito.”
“I have never met Ibrahimovic. I would like to meet him one day, that's my wish. I always watched how he behaved. He is one of the best football players I have ever seen.”
The greatest football player of all times?
“I would say Messi. It is more difficult to play football now, no one will be able to do what he did. He did everything he can do, won everything. That's why he's the best of all times.”
How important is the family? You say it is your guide?
“When you have no one, you always have family. They always support you no matter what you do. They help me, I help them. That's my life. Family is number one.”
A message to future football players?
“Work hard every day and never give up. You will end up where you deserve, because you will not get anything for free.”