Mr. Demirovic, can you tell us something more about yourself and the work you do? Where and when did your love for sports journalism come from?
First of all, I would like to thank Sarajevo Times for expressing interest in doing an interview with me, it is an honour. If I had to describe myself in three words, I would say I’m a cheerful, companionable, and confident person, but also someone who is aware of my flaws. I think it’s in human nature to copy actions of surrounding adults as a child, regardless if they’re good or bad, so I showed interest in journalism and sports mostly thanks to my father, a sports lover who read multiple newspapers as a part of his daily routine. My first article was published seven years ago and I’ve worked for multiple sports and non-sports websites since then. From the end of July 2015 until the beginning of March 2016 I wrote a little over 500 articles covering several sports for SportSport.ba, which is without doubt the most visited sports website in Southeastern Europe. Almost all of my work was based on promoting Bosnia and Herzegovina, but I find it interesting that my last interview was with Croatia-born MMA fighter Luka Jelčić, who trains on a daily basis with Conor McGregor, one of the most popular athletes in the world.
You are known for the fact that you published a list of the 100 greatest football talents of BiH from the territory of three continents at the age of 14, something that no one has ever published before. Can you give us the 5 biggest football talents and tell us something about them that would be interesting to our readers?
That article is definitely one that made a lot of people in our country more aware of me and what I do, but it is also an example of something I don’t intend to do nowadays. In my opinion you can’t call yourself a sports journalist if you pick and choose sports to write or learn about, but sadly that is what most ‘sports’ journalists do. Most sports journalists in our country are actually football/soccer journalists who would rather give a front page spot to the fact that some lesser known player is on a tryout at some low quality “Premijer liga” club than the fact that a fighter from Bosnia and Herzegovina signed on with the UFC.
The second story is a huge, huge deal but they don’t know a single thing about it. Shortly after I published that article I said that it would be great even if only 10% of those players make to our senior national team in a few years, because a lot of players just disappear during their teenage years.
I’m glad I can say eight of those players currently play for our national team (Bešić, Kolašinac, Hajrović, Prcić, Vrančić, Vranješ, T. Sušić and Hadžić), but I’m also sad because two will play for other countries in the upcoming European championships, the two are Emir Kujović (Sweden) and Haris Seferović (Switzerland). But like I said, I don’t think it’s alright to only focus on one sport so nowadays I follow all of our sports personalities, and I think it’s only fair to mention some of the top young athletes in multiple (Olympic) sports in which I consider them among the best in the world in their age group, or for which I believe are on a good way to become a part of that category. So we have Toni Miletić, Aleksandra Samardžić, and Harun Sadiković in judo; Džanan Musa, Sani Čampara, and Edin Atić in basketball; Nedim Hadžić, Dženis Burnić, and Amer Gojak in football; Mesud Pezer and Rusmir Malkočević in athletics; Vladan Lončar and Marko Karaula in handball; Mihajlo Čeprkalo and Amina Kajtaz in swimming; Adem Fetahović in amateur boxing; Nefisa Berberović in tennis; Lejla Tanović in bicycling; Elvedina Muzaferija in alpine skiing; Emina Hadžiahmetović in table tennis… There is one sport I prefer that is not Olympic but is way more popular than most of the Olympic sports. Mixed Martial Arts or MMA is the fastest-growing sport in the world and our best talents in this sport are Ahmed Vila and Roberto Soldić.
Great changes are happening in the national team of BiH (football). Can you tell us your opinion on this, and can you comment on the last matches with Spain, Denmark and Japan?
I’m thrilled with the guys who won us the traditional Kirin Cup in Japan! We were expected to finish last in this competition, playing without our biggest stars, but we won! We went to Japan without ten of our standard players (Begović, Zukanović, Spahić, Bičakčić, Pjanić, Višća, Bešić, Lulić, Džeko, Ibišević) and we played our final match without twelve standard players, because Vranješ and Kolašinac, who played against Denmark, were missing against Japan. We won the first match against Denmark, where the average worth of a first eleven player is 6 million Euro, while the average worth of ours is a little less than 2 million Euro. After that we won against Japan, which under Vahid Halilhodžić’s leadership lost only one game in 16 matches, in which they had a 49:8 goal difference.
One of their players alone (Okazaki) is worth more than nine out of eleven of our players which started the final match. And we defeated them in front of 40.000 Japanese spectators. Incredible! Milan Đurić is a beast, although he plays in Seria B, he scored seven goals in 10 matches and after only 10 matches he’s already in Bosnia and Herzegovina national team’s “top 10“ goal scorers of all time. Japan was 22nd on Elo World Ratings, which is far more accurate and realistic than FIFA World Rankings, and we were 35th, but after this huge win we are now 26th and Japan is 27th! It’s also expected that we’ll move on the FIFA Rankings list.
As for the match against Spain, I think our best players were already “on vacation” in their minds and they didn’t play as expected. On the other side, it was surprising to see Duljević, a player from our league, make two big goal-chances for our team. He also played well against Denmark and Japan, and Stevanović also showed he still knows how to “play ball“. He assisted for Đurić’s winning-goal only seconds after he came into the game. They had good cooperation in our U21 national team a few years ago so I kind of anticipated they’ll be behind our winning-goal.
At the age of 16, after you made contact with Ed Vulliamy, you wrote an interdisciplinary text for the biggest British newspaper the “Guardian” on the greatest sports, cultural, historical and other personalities of BiH. Can you give us some names?
I was preparing that article four years ago for about six months and at that point where lots of things even I was not acquainted with. That article was not only about personalities, but about any “Bosnian” things that can promote our country, whether it’s cultural treasure, literature or something else entirely.
For example, not many people know that Danis Tanović is not the first person from Bosnia and Herzegovina to win an Oscar. Dušan Vukotić, born in Bileća, is the first non-American to win an Oscar for an animated movie. J.R.R. Tolkien, a writer of the world-renown The Lord of the Rings, lost, among others, the Nobel prize for literature to our Ivo Andrić. Sarajevo-born composer Dino Zonić preformed for personalities like Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, and Pope John Paul II. Our writer Aleksandar Hemon received a $500.000 MacArthur Genius Grant award, which is considered to be “the smaller Nobel prize”. Our ballad “Hasanaginica” is famous to the point that great writers such as Goethe or Pushkin translated it into their languages. Our water “Oaza” from Tešanj was on an official menu in the White House. There are also some indications that Bosniak Ahmed-Paša Džezar defeated the great Napoleon Bonaparte in just one battle and so on…
Only I have access to the stats I work with because they’re entirely the product of my analysis. Some stats I have serve only as trivia, like Milan Đurić scoring the 99th goal for our U21 national team, or Vedad Ibišević scoring our 100th goal in the European Championships/World Cup qualifications (things I believe even they don’t know), but I mostly use them to put emphasis on the importance of some results. I believe that something historic happens every day if you follow the achievements of every sports personality (and not just football players) with my analytic approach.
I also fight against superficiality and I hate when a result gets more recognition than it deserved, or when it doesn’t get enough. Quality, not quantity, is what we need to value. People should stop believing things like „oh Guy #1 scored 10 goals in 10 matches and he’s better than Guy#2 who scored 3 goals in 10 matches.“ Well maybe Guy#1 scored goals that weren’t that important while playing 90 minutes every game, while Guy#2 on the other hand could’ve scored three important goals while spending less time on the field.
Our judoka Larisa Cerić became European vice-champion in 2014 and people talked more about that silver medal than about the bronze medal that Larisa won last week at Masters. Why? Because people know that 2nd is better than 3rd and they know what the European championships are, but they don’t know that Larisa’s last week result in Guadalajara is worth 40 points more than the European silver medal. Every website reported only that “Larisa qualified for Olympics“, but no one mentioned something really important (because – football, football and only football) – Larisa’s bronze medal at Masters in Guadalajara is the second most valuable senior result in Bosnia and Herzegovina judo history (after Amel Mekić’s European Championships gold). People need to realize that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Amel Tuka came in at e.g. 5th place at the Olympic games, because it would still be a greater accomplishment than if Nedžad Fazlija had won the gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in sports shooting (where he finished 6th) considering that athletics is an “A category” sport, whereas sports shooting is a “C category”.
I keep track of multiple statistics for a single thing. For example, Sejad Salihović is a player from Bosnia and Herzegovina that scored the most free-kicks in the “top 5 leagues”, but Miralem Pjanić’s free-kicks gave the most points to his clubs. Sejad Salihović scored the most free-kicks for the senior national team, but Zvjezdan Misimović gave our national team the most points from free-kicks. You can’t look at only one statistic and say “this one is the best“, you need to look at all of them.
Edin Džeko is one of only two players who played official matches for our senior national team that scored over 100 goals in “top 5 leagues” and Edin Džeko is a player of ours that brought most points to his clubs out of all of our current/former national team players. When our national team defeated Lithuania at Eurobasket 2013 it was a huge surprise, because we were ranked 50 on FIBA’s ranking list while Lithuania was ranked 5. At that point Lithuania had six European, one World and three Olympic medals and became the European vice-champion at that same Eurobasket. Amel Mekić never won an Olympic or senior World medal, but during his career he won matches against eight European champions, one World champion and six Olympics medalists. All of this and a lot of other things I don’t have the space to mention here are a big part of our history and all of it needs to be cherished.
Interview by Zejna SY