Conversation with: Zlatan Dedovic

Oct 08, 2019 by Andy West, Print
Conversation with: Zlatan Dedovic

For any fan of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, it would come as no surprise to walk down the street in Munich and see FC Bayern star Nihad Dedovic surrounded by autograph hunters.

After all, the dynamic guard is a stalwart of the competition, making more than 100 appearances since debuting with FC Barcelona way back in the 2007-8 season. Of course people want to meet him.

However, many of those autograph and selfie-seekers are mistaken, because they do not believe they are accosting Dedovic. Instead, they think they have stumbled across soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The uncanny resemblance between the pair has led to Dedovic being on the receiving end of mistaken identity on a daily basis, with the 29-year-old constantly having to patiently inform excited fans that in fact no, he is not Zlatan, he is Nihad. But he doesn't mind at all.

"I would love to see their reaction when they discovered that I'm not Zlatan!"

In fact, he finds it all highly amusing, explaining: "A few people have said that I look like him for many years, but it changed dramatically when I let my hair grow last season. Now it happens every day, 15 or 20 people, minimum.

"It doesn't bother me. Of course I don't want to have a new career as a professional Zlatan double, but if people want to have some fun about it, I don't mind. I don't take myself so seriously that I can't laugh about it."

The comparisons reached their peak during Bayern's pre-season tour to South America and Florida this summer, when Zlatan-mania hit such heights that Bayern's social media team decided to have a bit of fun by asking Dedovic to head out in Miami and pretend he really was Zlatan. The prank was filmed for the club's YouTube channel...with predictably hilarious consequences.

"In Miami and Argentina people were more aggressive than they were in Europe," Dedovic laughs. "They came right up to me and already had their phones ready to take photos immediately. In Europe, it's a bit more calm! It was amazing how many of the people were really shaking when they thought I was Zlatan. They were hugging me and they were so nervous, they couldn't even find the camera on their phones! It was very funny.

"When we were filming in Miami I said I really was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, let them take the photos and didn't tell them the truth, but I would love to see their reaction when they discovered that I'm not Zlatan!"

Of course, Dedovic does not need to nurture a relationship with his lookalike -- who currently plays in Los Angeles -- because he has plenty more elite footballers much closer at hand as members of FC Bayern's football side. And he confirms, there is a lot of mutual support between the German giant's basketball and football sections, saying: "Lots of the football players come to watch our EuroLeague games in the arena.

"Javi Martinez comes to nearly all the games and I speak to him in Spanish. Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Thiago Alcantara, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba...they all come and support us. They really enjoy it, they love the sport, especially with the full arenas and great atmospheres we have in the EuroLeague.

"We also go to watch the football team whenever we can, mostly in the Champions League because of our schedule. It's not often because we don't have time, but we go anytime we have the chance."

If his life circumstances had worked out differently, maybe Dedovic would now be pulling on the red shirts of Bayern's football team rather than the basketball uniform, because he was a huge fan of the sport when he was young.

"I spent the first seven years of my life in Munich, during the war in Bosnia, and football was my first love," he reveals. "I was a big fan of Bayern along with my team from home, FK Zeljeznicar. But when we went back to Sarajevo in '97, after the war, of course everything was destroyed and there wasn't any chance to go and play football. Even now I always joke to my mother that she never let me go and play football! But really everything was in chaos, the economy wasn't at all developed, and there were no fields for football. There were some small clubs and my brother tried to play, but it was difficult.

"FC Bayern basketball is going to become a great example in European basketball."

"Then a new basketball club opened in Sarajevo, and that's when we started to play basketball. My father had played amateur basketball when he was young, and he always wanted me and my brother to play a sport instead of just being on the streets. So when the new club started we went along, and immediately the people saw that I had some talent and everything went from there. I was 10 or 11 years old and starting to compete at a good level, and everything pointed that I was going in the direction of being a basketball player."

Considering his childhood love for Bayern's football stars, it's ironic that Dedovic has spent the last six years representing the club's basketball team. And he believes the basketball section will soon start to emulate the enormous levels of success enjoyed over many years by the footballing counterparts.

"When I came here, it was our first year in the EuroLeague, and the club was just starting something much bigger," he said.

"Now when I look back over the last few years, the club has evolved tremendously and not only going step by step, but two or three steps forward every season. FC Bayern basketball is going to become a great example in European basketball, and hopefully over the rest of the world with things like our summer tour to Latin America, where a lot of people know about EuroLeague and really watch it."

And who knows, if he keeps excelling and the club continues to grow, maybe in time people will start approaching Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the belief that he's really Nihad Dedovic!