What did first the steps in your career look like? Were they harder or easier compared to the present?
I made my first steps as a 5-year-old kid. The reason for that was cerebral palsy, the condition I had from the moment I was born. To be honest, it’s hard to compare the fight for my first steps and the present, because every part of life brings its difficulties. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that the path to my first steps was extremely hard and it required will, dedication, and an insane amount of courage and sacrifice. But at the end of it all, it all paid off.
Did that affect the path of your career? Did your dreams and ambitions change, or did you know what you wanted from the beginning?
Cerebral palsy marked my life forever, and has put limitations on my dreams and life choices. But because of the life I live and my responsibilities as a young man towards the society in which I built my personality, I have kept moving on. My personal goals have changed the form, but the basics have been the same. For as long as I can remember, it was to try to be the best at everything I do.
Have you ever felt prejudice, as a young boy or throughout your career, about cerebral palsy? Did it have any effect on your overall motivation?
Prejudice has always been there, from the beginning until this day. But, to be honest, the good part is that people do not have great expectations about you, so it cuts in half the amount of pressure from the outside. The hardest years were the adolescent years, just as in the life of any young person. Mostly because at the time I had to learn to cope with myself and to accept the fact that I had to live with disability. From that moment on, I started to build my personality and my dreams, growing up stronger and more motivated day by day.
I always wanted to fulfill the dream of becoming a professional athlete as a basketball player, but I wasn’t able to. So I decided to sign up on the Avaz Tower Running Marathon 2015 competition where you had to climb 768 stairs (36 floors) in the shortest possible time. This type of competition presented a major challenge for me, given the fact that stairs are the most difficult obstacles in the everyday lives of people with cerebral palsy. After hard and exhausting preparation that lasted for 3 months, I became the first person with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina who finished a competition intended for professional athletes.
Sport was always part of your life. Why basketball?
You can say that my love for sports made me what I am today. The answer to the question ‘why basketball?’ is simple – my father. At the time he was a passionate basketball fan, so often we watched the games played by Mirza Delibašić on video tapes, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. I “fell in love” with the game of basketball from that moment. Since I was born with Cerebral Palsy I wanted to play basketball. But, since I couldn’t stand or walk on my feet, my father decided to make a basketball rim and backboard and put it on the living room door. Then he told me: “If you want to play, you have to stand up on your feet.” At first, I couldn’t do it, but the only thing I was interested in was to play basketball and win the shootout game. The work I put in paid off, so I began to stand on my own and play. But I wasn’t strong enough to endure the shootout games. After a brief period of time I would fall down on the ground. Whenever I fell down while making a shot, my father would tell me that the shot didn’t count, because I fell down. That made my work even harder and more dedicated, and finally at the age of five I made my first “baby steps”. After my “baby steps” I had to have seven surgeries on my legs and feet to be able to walk, run, and play basketball. That’s why basketball and sports in general made me what I am today. That’s why they were the leitmotif of my life.
When did you first meet the Bosnian professional basketball player, Mirza Teletović? Did that moment change the direction of your destiny?
Mirza and I met in 2013, when I got the chance to talk to the players on the Bosnian national basketball team before they went on a trip to Slovenia for Eurobasket 2013. We talked for a brief period of time. I used my time to encourage the players and to wish them luck at Eurobasket. From that moment Mirza and I became like brothers. Mirza Teletović is someone whom I admire as a professional basketball player for his dedication to the game, work ethic, confidence, and courage. But he left an even greater impression on me as a great person, a friend, and a man dedicated to his family. It’s a real pleasure to know a man like Mirza, to be able to boost his motivation when times are hard on the hardwood.
Except sport, what made you keep going further and fighting harder?
Sport was the main reason in the early years of my life, and it helped me to become what I am today, but it also gave me the responsibility to be the voice for all the people with disability in Bosnian society. Because of this responsibility and soon getting an MA at the Faculty of Administration – University of Sarajevo, I realized that the real way to do this is education. Constant work on the existing, as well as the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, so I can in the future proudly represent my country and be a part of its bright future.
At the end of this interview, would you like to share any words of motivation for young people out there?
My personal statement at the end of this interview would be this: always be happy, but never be satisfied. Because happiness should be your motive, and satisfaction just builds the ego.