By Ulf Inge Bjaaland
It is an impressive record. Norwegian side SFK Lyn's 18-year-old striker Eldar Hadzimehmedovic has played just two games in European club competition. In total, he has been on the pitch for 78 minutes. He has also scored six goals.
The young forward from Bosnia-Herzegovina was only given eight minutes to impress in the first leg of his side's UEFA Cup qualifying round tie against Faroese side NSÍ Runavík. However, he was given 70 minutes in the second leg, and repaid coach Tommy Berntsen's faith in him by scoring six times.
NSÍ's 36-year-old goalkeeper Jens Martin Knudsen - who became something of European legend himself in the 1990s by wearing a woolly hat while representing the Faroe Islands - will certainly be sick of the sight of Hadzimehmedovic, having been beaten by him three times in each half in Oslo.
It goes without saying that this was the biggest thing I have ever experienced on a football pitch," Hadzimehmedovic told uefa.com. "I could not believe what happened, as I had barely scored for the first team before."
It has been a dramatic introduction to UEFA club competition for the youngster, but there is every chance it will not be the last European observers hear about the speedy, skilful striker who will celebrate his 19th birthday next Wednesday.
Discovered as a 16-year-old by former Lyn coach Vidar Davidsen, those in the know at the club have been whispering about the prodigy in their ranks for a number of years. "He has an instinct for scoring goals," said former Lyn coach Teitur Thordarsson who resigned last week.
Hadzimehmedovic moved to Norway from his home in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina with his family in September 1996, and speaks Norwegian with no trace of an accent. He has acclimatised so well to life in his adopted country that he has applied to become a Norwegian citizen, although the decision is still weighing on his mind.
That decision was made all the more difficult when he was selected for Bosnia-Herzegovina's Under-21 squad to face Norway this week, although a minor injury ensured he could not play. However, he knows who he will be backing in Saturday's UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier. "
I am still a Bosnian at heart, so I am pretty sure I will support them on Saturday," he said.
Aside for playing for Lyn in the Tippeliga, where he has made ten appearances, Hadzimehmedovic is currently studying at a local college, NTG, where he mixes football training with conventional academic work. However, while he is keeping his feet on the ground, he is still dreaming of a long career in football.
"My first aim is to get a regular place in the Lyn team and it looks like Lyn's new player-coach Tommy Berntsen believes in me," he said. "This is a good club to develop at and I have a contract here that runs until 2006. In the longer term I would like to be a professional in one of Europe's bigger leagues."
For the time being, though, he can bask in the glory of becoming the first player from a Norwegian club to score six goals in a European game. A handful on the pitch, football commentators across Europe should be warned that Hadzimehmedovic is also a mouthful off it. "We just call him Eldar," said a team-mate.
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