Mahmutovic hopes for second coming of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s golden generation

Ifet Mahmutovic has achieved two great successes in sitting volleyball since he assumed his position as head coach of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina have built a reputation as one of the most tradition-rich programmes in the world that won two Paralympic gold medals, three World Championship titles and boasts 10 European titles among their many accolades.

From November 4 to 11, the Bosnian men’s and women’s teams will be competing for the world titles on their home soil in Sarajevo from November 4 to 11.

In an interview for the 2022 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships, the 52-year-old tactician shared his thoughts on what measures would be necessary to take his team to the podium of the sport’s biggest event and his outlook on his team’s new prospects following the path of the golden generation.

How would you describe your work in the past year? What were the challenges and changes on the team since your appointment as coach?

It was challenging and difficult to take on a team that everyone started to forget a little, probably because of the team’s average age or the public’s perception or familiarity of them winning gold. However, I saw that my players cared about bringing back that golden glow, therefore everyone in the team put in a lot of work and effort in the past year. And proof of everything we worked for were the gold medals at the European Championship and the Golden League in Sarajevo.

Has there been any changes in the composition of the team, how can the younger generation contribute to the results considering the veterans are well-accustomed to success?

The current national team is composed of young and experienced players. What amazes me most about the younger ones is how much they believe in themselves. I am convinced that they will follow the path of the golden generation. The older players will contribute with experience and advice, so this team will be well known for having a combination of youth and experience.

What are your thoughts on Sarajevo’s hosting of the Golden League for men where the men defended its title without losing a set, and the Silver League for women where the women achieved its first historic victory?

It’s nice to see that our young girls, on their first appearance and historic victory, gave hope that they too will follow the path of the men’s national team. I am sure of their future feats, but that will depend on the support of the national federation and how much work will be done on the development of women’s sitting volleyball.

As winners of the world titles in Cairo 2002, Roermond 2006 and Elblag 2014, will Bosnia and Herzegovina win new gold as hosts of Sarajevo 2022? What are your expectations since your long-time rivals Iran and other teams will be competing for the world title?

Winners would never say that the most important thing is to participate. Our results do not allow us to say that participation alone is important. Therefore, we must motivate ourselves that we are playing in our country, and we should do our best to please our countrymen with our success for the umpteenth time.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has earned great trust from World ParaVolley as hosts of the World Championships, how significant is the hosting of this competition for the development of Para sports and the promotion of sport and country to the world?

“To be given the opportunity to organise a competition such as the Sitting Volleyball World Championships, which surpasses the Paralympic Games in terms of the number of participants, it is truly a great honour and responsibility for us. Bringing hundreds of the best sitting volleyball players to our country is already an enormous success.

“This is the crown of the generation that started in 1999 with gold in Sarajevo and we are now given the opportunity to finish with gold in 2022, again in Sarajevo. The success of our players in promoting the country is immeasurable, and the organisation of such competition puts Sarajevo in the spotlight as a city of sports and sporting events at the world level.”

The 2022 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships will officially open on November 3. All the matches will be played in the Hills Hotel Arena and will be streamed live.

Photo credit: ParaVolley Europe, Conny Kurth, Dino Šečić