TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Sejad Salihovic has been through more struggles in his short career than many experience in a lifetime, but he has overcome them all to emerge as one of Hoffenheim's most influential squad members.
Salihovic was forced to flee his home in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia, ultimately arriving as a seven-year-old in Berlin with his family seeking asylum in the German capital.
Football was one of the only hobbies which took Salihovic's mind off his family's struggles, and seven years after being introduced to the game by his elder brother, he was appearing at the Olympiastadion in a Hertha BSC Berlin shirt.
"We fought our way to Berlin and established a new existence for ourselves," recalled Salihovic in an interview with spox.com. "We had nothing and always lived in the fear of being deported." That fear and the tough reality of growing up in the suburbs of one of Europe's must diverse and bustling capitals strengthened Salihovic and also taught him how to get what he wanted.
Perhaps this made him a little too ruthless and he fell out of favour at Hertha, moving from one end of the spectrum to the other by joining Hoffenheim, set in the peaceful Baden-Württemberg countryside. "I needed to get out of Berlin," admitted Salihovic. Thanks to the guidance of Ralf Rangnick, Salihovic settled at the club and in the local area.
Just how important Salihovic's family is to him becomes clear from the fact that he turned down a move to FC Bayern Munich in 2009 after his parents told him they did not want to move again. "That was not an easy decision," said Salihovic. "As a good son, I had to listen to them."
Saviour to the fore
Salihovic encountered his next problem following the departure of Rangnick and the arrival of Markus Babbel. But after being dropped to the reserve team for two weeks, Salihovic knuckled down to get back into the side and even earn a new contract until 2016. "I just put my foot down in training when I got back, and that was the end of it," said Salihovic.
The following campaign proved no less turbulent. For Salihovic, a knee injury threatened to cut his season short, but after getting back to full fitness, he found favour under Markus Gisdol and made an immediate impact upon his return to the starting line-up, later scoring two penalties against Dortmund on the final day to earn Hoffenheim an ultimately successful second bite of the cherry via the relegation play-offs. This season he has eight goals and five assists in 20 appearances.