Maric thankful for football life
Under-23s midfielder Adnan Maric talks about how his family’s new life in Sweden put him on a path to football.
Football is often referred to as a game of split loyalties, but for young Swansea midfielder Adnan Maric, war and conflict created a split love for two nations he represents.
The 20-year-old was born and raised in Sweden after his family fled the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s.
Despite the war being over before Maric’s birth, the youngster accepts his family’s move to Scandinavia led to him finding a career in football.
“My mother left Bosnia as soon as the war started,” he explains. “My father stayed in the country during the conflict before joining my mother when things calmed down. It was after that I was born.
“The war was a big moment of history for my country and sadly brought bad times for everyone involved with it.
“The troubles definitely made our family stronger and I think mentally we can cope with more in life.
“We have taken a lot of strength from any negativity and now we just keep building. My parents raised me in a good way and I am strong and healthy thanks to them.
“I have a lot to be thankful for in life. If my parents had not made the move to Sweden you never know where I would have ended up or even whether my life would be in football.
“It was a life-changing situation for many people. But I am thankful to be where I am.”
As Maric grew up in the safe surroundings of Sweden he began his football journey with Gothenburg-based side Gunnilse IS before moving to Swedish second-tier club GAIS in 2013.
It was whilst with the Superettan club that Maric made his first-team debut aged just 16.
“It was an amazing feeling to play for the first team at that age,” he recalls.
“It was a dream come true to put my boots on and step onto the pitch at Gamla Ullevi. It was a stadium – similar to the Liberty – I would often drive past, so to finally play there in front of the fans was amazing.
“That year at GAIS did me good. It helped me develop as a player and learn very quickly how to handle things both mentally and physically.
“It is fair to say my time there helped me prepare for my next move.”
In the summer of 2015, aged just 17, Maric said goodbye to his friends and family in Sweden to pursue a new challenge within Swansea City’s academy.
Moving to a new country to follow your dreams can be difficult for anyone in life, but the youngster feels doing it as a teenager in football can be a bigger challenge altogether.
“People think it is easy to just up roots, move to a new county and continue your life,” the now 20-year-old says. “In truth it was a very hard experience.
“You leave everything behind – your friends, family, the places you grew up – and you start again for the sake of football and your career.
“For me, it was a different test. It was tough at the beginning. The hardest part for me was moving here and not having my family around me.
“It was a lonely experience at first but I kept in touch with everyone and in the end taking on a new challenge helps strengthen you.
“Swansea is very much like an extended family for me these days. We have a great squad in the under-23s and having other Swedish players like Martin Olsson and Kristoffer Nordfeldt here is great.”
Maric’s background allows him the choice of representing either Bosnia or Sweden at international level, with the young midfielder choosing the latter having played for Sweden’s Under-19s and travelled to the Olympics as part of the nation’s Rio 2016 squad.
“My heart is split but I love both countries as much as each other,” he admits.
“I represent Sweden having grown up and played there but you never know what the future holds or what might happen.”
Since his arrival at Swansea in 2015, Maric has graduated from the under-18s to become a key figure in the under-23s team and made his first team debut under Carlos Carvalhal in the FA Cup against Notts County in February.
The Swede scored his third goal of the season to help the under-23s to their 10th win of the league campaign against Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium this month, igniting the chance of a late title challenge.
“We had an up and down start to the campaign,” Maric admits. “But we have really pulled together and produced some great results over the last few months.
“We didn’t lose our heads when things weren’t going well. We maintained our focus and continued to fight.
“Now we have a chance to compete at the top of the league, but all we can do is take each game as it comes and continue to perform to the highest level.”