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Edin Dzeko: Amazing story of 27m Manchester City striker

26 Feb 2011 02:02:19

Edin Dzeko: Amazing story of 27m Manchester City striker

A Bosnian and a Serb embrace in the car park at Manchester City's training ground. Two children of the Balkans enjoying a better life. Both Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov have known bloody conflict in their short lifetimes. Dzeko survived the siege of Sarajevo as a young boy in the mid-1990s, spending three years in a one-bedroom basement flat with a dozen members of his family. As a teenager, Kolarov endured the NATO attack on Belgrade at the end of that same decade. For his part, Dzeko - a Muslim - now preaches unity and tolerance as Bosnia's first UNICEF ambassador. Diamond geezer: Edin Dzeko celebrates his strike against Aris Thessalonika He doesn't like to talk about his past, about the dark days when shells flattened the family home outside the city. He carries it with him, though. 'I try to do something to make change,' Dzeko told Sportsmail this week. 'I tend to go into schools in Bosnia, where there is still much to do. 'Many of the schools are divided. It's like two schools in one, with the Bosnians on one side and the Croats on the other. 'I go there to try to persuade them to come together and mix, because the war led to mistrust and hate, so things are difficult. 'I try to show the children that it's not important what their name is or my name is or whether we are Muslim, Christian or Catholic. 'I want to show them that the most important thing is that you're a good man or a good woman. 'Look at Aleksandar. What is important to me is that somebody is a good man, and he is a good man. 'It's not important if he comes from Serbia, despite what happened between the countries. It doesn't matter if he is from Croatia or Ghana or Bosnia or England. All I care about is the individual.'  Edin Dzeko is known as Diamant - the Diamond - back home in Bosnia. In Manchester, he is merely Robert Mancini's latest signing. But at ?27million, he was an expensive jewel. Signed in January to give Manchester City's season an adrenaline shot, the 24-year-old's English career began in earnest with two superbly taken goals in the Europa League at Eastlands on Thursday. 'I am not just a big player who has come to head the ball,' stressed Dzeko. 'Earlier in my career, I played behind the strikers and in midfield. I can play left and right or a little bit behind - it's up to the coach. I know my game, and I know what I can do.' Against Aris FC on Thursday, Dzeko looked every inch the complete forward. Long journey: Dzeko (front row, fourth from left) in his school team One goal came from his right foot, the other with his left, and both were impressive in different ways. To City supporters, however, Dzeko became one of them the moment he walked through the door at Eastlands. Within seconds of his introductory press conference starting, the former Wolfsburg player said he had come to City because he knew it was Manchester's real club, the one the locals support. It was Dzeko's personal 'Welcome to Manchester ' moment , a pre-planned nod towards Old Trafford and he doesn't regret it. 'I said at my first press conference that I saw something else in this city, something that I liked,' he explained. 'That was one of the reasons I came. 'I was told before I came that this town is more about Manchester City, and that is what I have found. 'That is why I said what I said and I have no regrets. I have not said anything wrong, only the truth. 'I have had a good reaction from the City fans - but I am not sure what United fans think. I did not mean to upset them or offend them, and I still believe it is the truth. 'The game at Old Trafford [when City lost 2-1] showed how close the two teams are. There was not much between us at all and I never thought at any stage we would lose the game. 'I think we were the better team, especially after we scored. When it was 1-1 we had chances to score and win - but that's football. Sometimes you lose when you play well, and that's what happened.' True blue: Dzeko always has time for fans Dzeko was a substitute at Old Trafford, his misdirected shot flying in off David Silva's backside for the equaliser. It is the closest he has come to a goal of his own in the Barclays Premier League and he knows he must contribute soon. Mancini has already expressed public concerns about his new centre forward's struggle to adapt to the frenetic and physical nature of the English domestic game. Dzeko is not worried, though. He has been here before. 'When I first went to Germany I didn't play very well,' he recalled. 'For about a half a year I didn't do what I can, and I think people must have thought I was hopeless. But then I got used to the league and to the team and then I began to do what I can do. 'I know that I have to do that quicker here, but playing for a big club in the best league in Europe has always been my big ambition - and it's come true. 'It's different and harder than the Bundesliga. You have to always be strong and fight for every ball. 'The referees are different too. They don't whistle as they do in Germany, where every small contact is a foul. 'Here [he punches his fist into his palm] it's no foul. 'Away at Notts County [in the FA Cup] it was hard because the pitch was small and it was like a fight for 90 minutes. 'There was no football there, but I know I can play football and I want to show that.' At Dzeko's first club, Zeljeznicar in Bosnia, Dzeko also struggled, scoring just five goals in 40 games. He had another nickname back then: 'Cloc'. It is slang for a big wooden stick and was not meant as a compliment. When the club received ?21,000 for 18-year-old Dzeko from Czech side Teplice in 2005, one director confessed that 'we thought we had won the lottery'. One cause: Team-mates Dzeko (right) and Aleksandar Kolarov It did not faze Dzeko. 'My whole career has been step by step, so I am used to this process,' he said. 'First it was the Bosnian league and then the Czech second league and first league and then Germany and now the best league in the world. 'It has all been gradual, and it seems that it must be step by step for me here too. 'There are a lot of great players here like [Carlos] Tevez, who are doing great things, and I am the new one, so I have to get used to it. 'At home they call me the Diamant. 'They don't call me Edin or Dzeko. It's just Diamant and that is very special to me. 'It started two years ago when I scored one of the best goals of my career for Bosnia in Belgium and the commentator called me it. 'Now when someone sees me in the street that's what they call out. I know that I have done something good for my country and it makes me proud. 'But it hasn't always been like that and that means nothing over here in England. Football is never easy, especially when you are the new person. 'At Zeljeznicar, for example, I was very young. I was 16 or 17 when I first played for the first team and I would only get about 20 minutes, so it was hard. 'Then I moved to the Czech Republic and it got a bit easier. My trainer there helped me more and taught me how to play the No 10 role. 'My goals will come here. They didn't give me the one against United and that's a shame, but there will be goals. I know that.'  Leading light: Dzeko supports the Guide Dog charity On the day that we meet, Dzeko and his team-mate Kolarov spend two hours at a Guide Dogs Training School in Greater Manchester. As part of their City in the Community project, the club have donated ?25,000 to sponsor five new puppies. The two players meet young City fans who have won a competition to name the dogs. One is suitably called Nelly, in honour of City's 1969 FA Cup hero Neil Young. Dzeko and Kolarov pose happily for pictures and both agree to wear a blindfold and be guided through an obstacle course by fully trained dogs. Dzeko appears to be more comfortable. He sits one youngster on his lap and ruffles another child's hair throughout a 15-minute demonstration. 'With children it's always easy,' he said. 'They are very important and we have to show them that. If somebody wants to take my photo or have an autograph then I will always try to do it.' Dzeko's own childhood was fraught. His family fled their home in the Sarajevo suburb of Brijesce when it came under attack in 1992. For the remainder of the war, home was his grand-parents' basement flat in the city. He has told horrific stories before, such as one about his mother Belma calling him in just moments before a bomb landed on the waste ground where he and his friends were having a kickabout. 'My gut feeling saved my son's life,' Belma is on record as saying. These days, Dzeko has tried to close the memories off. 'My childhood is in the past now,' he said. 'It was hard but I was not the only one to go through it. 'In Bosnia it was war between the ages of 6 and 10 for me, so it was hard to go out and do anything or live a normal life. 'But I was young, it's over now and I don't want to speak too much about it. 'After war was finished I was able to play football again. 'My father Midhat took me to the club [Zeljeznicar] every day for weeks as we didn't have enough money for constant taxis. 'I am close to my parents, of course, as everything I have done is because of them. They went through a lot for me and they are most important for me. 'They were here last week and came to the Notts County game, so they saw me score and that made me happy. The war years were hard but they always tried to make a good life for me and my sister.' Now he has moved into a suburban house in Cheshire, and is part of Mancini's squad for the foreseeable future, Dzeko's world has turned full circle. The first part of this football year was not the most enjoyable. Wolfsburg refused to sell him to City last summer and Dzeko and his team - managed by former England coach Steve McClaren - began to struggle. McClaren was sacked soon after Dzeko left, something the centre forward regrets. 'I liked Steve McClaren and I think he is a very good coach,' he said. 'Why we didn't have success with him is difficult to say. Perhaps he was too nice - I don't know. 'I don't want to say too much about him but we had a good relationship. I am not surprised he was sacked as we were not having good results, but it's sad. 'It got a bit too much in Germany. Every day there was something new said or written about my future or my situation, and I had to blank it out otherwise it would just have hurt my head and messed me up. 'Now I am here I can relax and look forward.' Like many of his new team-mates, Dzeko does have Champions League experience, scoring home and away against Manchester United as Wolfsburg went out at the group stage last season. Since arriving at Eastlands, he has heard Mancini talk about the need for a better mentality and he doesn't disagree. 'The coach talks about the mentality and he is right,' he added. 'We have not won anything for 34 years and we must win something to move forward. 'I have played in only six games in the Champions League, but it is something special . Nothing compares with the Champions League. 'It's so different from the Europa League - that can only compare when you get to the semi-final or final, because it only becomes special at that stage. For us the Champions League is everything.' Dzeko says that final sentence as though he means it. The chances are, though, that he has it in exactly the right perspective.  Man City 3 Aris 0 (agg 3-0): Dzeko at the double as City ease into last 16Manchester City boss Mancini vows to play it safe despite Euro routEastlands match zone: Was Ricardo Faty paying tribute to The Hitman?All the latest Manchester City news, features and opinion  Explore more:People: David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Steve McClaren Places: Manchester, Bosnia, Germany, Croatia, Ghana, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Belgium, Europe Organisations: United Nations International Children ' s Emergency Fund


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