by Emir DELIC
This young soccer player, playing for Zrinjski soccer club, was brutally attacked about twelve days ago in Luka, a Mostar district on the left bank of the Neretva River. He escaped at the last moment.
"Why do you play for Ustashe?!": Covic immediately talked about the attack to his parents, who live in Tuzla, then went to the hospital and after that continued towards the Police station, where he was soon joined by Zdenko Dzidic, member of the presidency of Zrinjski, and captain and deputy captain of Zrinjski, Ivica Dzidic and goalie Romeo Mitrovic, respectively, who wanted to help him. After the attack and treatment received at the hospital, Covic spent the night in hotel "Ero". The following day, he moved his belongings from the apartment in Marsal Tito street where he lived at the time, to the Zrinjski stadium, where he stayed for a few days.
Mehmedalija Covic plays for the youth national soccer team of Bosnia-Hercegovina. In Mostar he arrived as a highly anticipated reinforcement from Sloboda Tuzla, where he had started his career. He is believed to be one of the most talented young soccer players in B-H. His transfer to Zrinjski is the work of manager from Srebrenik Ade Husaric, who also brought to Mostar Rasid Avdic from Bijeljina.
Several days before the attack Covic kept receiving threats over his phone. Several times he was accosted in eastern Mostar, where strangers insulted him and wanted to know why he was playing for "an Ustashe team". He was warned several times that he would be killed unless he left Zrinjski. Covic admits that he did not take these threats seriously and definitely did not anticipate that hooligans would eventually physically assault him.
Covic says: "I did not believe that someone would be prepared to even kill only to achieve some sort of a morbid goal. I am truly shocked. I could not sleep for days and kept watching behind my back every time I left my home. I checked for bombs under my car. I still get creeps thinking about those days".
After the attack, the talented defense player decided not to return to Mostar. He explains why: "My family fears for my life. It's not simple. I am the only son, and my parents are very important to me. I hoped to have more time on the field in Zrinjski, to learn and advance my career, but it did not turn out that way. Currently, my plan is to return to Sloboda. I said that no money would take me to Mostar". Mehmedalija's father Sejdalija Covic tearfully begged Zdenko Dzidic, member of Zrinjski management, to release his son from his contract and let him return home. Dzidic, one of Mostar businessmen who manage Zrinjski, has the reputation of an honest man who keeps his word and immediately decided to let Covic decide what was best for him.
Target of hooligans: Covic was not the only player with problems due to his choice to play for the Croatian Soccer Club Zrinjski. Former Zeljeznicar Sarajevo and youth national team midfielder Zajko Zeba was the first one to complain about provocations. He was accosted while walking in the city by a group of men who cursed him and "advised" him to leave Zrinjski as soon as possible. Zeba now lives in Slovenia, in Maribor, and prefers not to discuss the incident. "It's not that I don't care, but the incident was really unpleasant. I could not foresee that their next step would be to attack and beat up players," Zeba says for our magazine.
Sulejman Smajic was the next target of hooligans. While sitting in a café with a friend, this native of Bugojno in central Bosnia was approached by three strangers. "They asked me if I was Smajic who played for Zrinjski. I said that I was not him, because I could tell that they were not sure about my identity and that they did not have good intentions. I confess I was terrified. I left the café and they followed me. I was near the Old Bridge. I ran over the bridge and they ran after me shouting that they would throw me off the bridge unless I left Zrinjski," Smajic, 21-year old Zrinjski midfielder, breathlessly relates his experience.
Ado Husaric, Mehmedalija Covic's manager, believes that his client experienced the worst possible vandalism and hooliganism. Husaric says: "Covic is a cultured and civilized young man. He has never said or done anything wrong to anyone. In my opinion, what happened to him in Mostar is an unprecedented scandal for our soccer. Perhaps his only mistake was that upon arrival to Mostar he chose to live in the eastern [Bosniak-Muslim majority] part of the city. The young man joined Zrinjski to become a better soccer player, and he ended up with blows and shock. It is fortunate that he did not play any official games for Zrinjski so that he can now play for a different team. At this moment, I believe he will return to Sloboda. I would like to emphasize the fairness of the management of Zrinjski, especially Zdenko Dzidic, who realized the condition Covic was in and that it was best for him to leave Mostar."
In Zrinjski they are bitter because of attacks on their players. The press release produced on this occasion by the club asserts that "this incident did not occur by chance" and recall earlier attacks, such as "the attack on the bus with players of Zrinjski in Stolac, and the attack on the youngest players of Zrinjski in Jablanica by Velez supporters". Zrinjski demands that "state institutions finally do something".
Police checks: Police took death threats and the attack on Covic very seriously. The young soccer player was under constant police protection during the past few days. The dangerous situation is confirmed by that fact that the detective who investigated the attack on Covic had his car burnt and was told "to stay out of this".
Immediately after the attack, Mostar Police took into custody several suspects. Allegedly, there are four of them. Mehmedalija Covic attempted to recognize attackers in a lineup, but failed. Police has also checked phone numbers from which Covic received threats.
It is all in vain. No matter how many bridges are reconstructed, no matter how many joint institutions set up, no matter to what extent waterworks and sewage are under one management, Mostar will not prosper until even the most important unimportant matter in the world is viewed through nationalist glasses. And let it be known that in the past that was not the case in Mostar!