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The Goal that Turned a Rejected Boy into a Hero
The referee added seven minutes of stoppage time to the Mostar city derby – a common occurrence in matches between Zrinjski Mostar and Velež Mostar given the overabundance of flares interrupting play. It seemed that the home side threw everyone forward to get a win. But they made a huge mistake in the middle and the ball somehow came to Riad Demić. The young Velež midfielder dribbled through two defenders to force a one-on-one situation with the keeper.
Just three days prior Demić was in the stands watching his teammates beat NK Travnik 4-1 in league play. Manager Mirza Varešanović had decided that his form was awful and that he needed what is typically called the cold shower.
“Of course it was not easy for me,” Demić said that day. “Before everything I love football, I love Velež, and it’s hard to sit up there not being able to help my teammates. But I hope I’ll get my chance, maybe in the Mostar derby. I want to prove that I’m good enough,”
The 21-year-old midfielder was born in Mostar and is a product of the Velež youth system. He played through all of their youth teams and as a 17-year-old he got his first taste of first team football. After a year he was a regular, even becoming one of the key players of the squad, and received a call up for U-21 national squad. Everything seemed idyllic until the last
match of the 2008-9 season. Demić was ill for the crucial match in which Velež managed to avoid relegation but he clenched his teeth and played that pivotal match.
“After that I visited a doctor because I felt dizzy and weak. He diagnosed me with mononucleosis and my whole world felt apart.”
He spent nearly three months in the hospital and was forced back for two more before his full recovery was finished. When he returned to Velež he struggled with his form. He had few proper performances last season but the start of the new season was poor. Though he is a typical Balkan-style playmaker Varešanović tried him in a new role as a defensive midfielder. After two matches he lost his position in the team.
The Mostar club rivalry is about more than football. Zrinjski, formed in 1905 by Mostar Croats, was forbidden by the communists after WWII along with all the “national” clubs that played in the league during Nazi occupation. In the meantime Velež, formed in 1922, became one of the best Bosnian clubs and played a significant role in the Yugoslav league. During the seventies the city of Mostar decided to build a new stadium–Bijeli Brijeg–which was the home of Velež for the next twenty years. After Zrinjski was reorganized 1992 the brutal war divided the city. Zrinjski then took over the stadium, where they continue to play their home matches today. As a result Velez had to build a new stadium just outside of the city.
For the first time in Bosnian Cup history the Mostar clubs were drawn against one another, which meant the derby would be played three times in 20 days. Zrinjski have been much more successful in last decade, winning the championship twice and one cup. In addition to the trophies they had a perfect record against Velež at Bijeli Brijeg, winning 8 out of 8. This time around their performance was poor, and Varešanović and his Velež boys were on the verge of
a historic 0-0 draw. The home side had their chances, but three minutes before the end Varešanović sent Demić into the game just to steal some time.
The home side pressed forward to get the win. In so doing they made a huge mistake in the middle and the ball somehow came to Demić. The young Velež midfielder beat two defenders and had only the keeper to beat. Demić – once a big prospect whose career was held back by an ugly disease — a Mostar kid whose dream it was to play in the red shirt at this stadium, sent the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net.
A historic goal for Velež, a historic win for the Reds, but also a significant moment in this boy’s career. The goal instantly made Demić a club legend, made him once again a fan favorite, and a hero who now gets a second chance.
*The derby never reached its ending. Home fans couldn’t watch Velež players celebrate the goal so they invaded the pitch and tried to attack them. The idiots caused the match to be suspended and the FA decided that it will be registered as a 0:3 victory for Velez. Even still Demić’s goal decided the destiny of this derby. The rematch will be played on Wednesday, October 19th.