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Band of brothers keep Savez soldiering on

Savez Gradiška AMA's bid for UEFA Regions' Cup glory in Croatia is being led by three Zagreb-born siblings, who are adamant that the Bosnian side can still reach the final despite opening the tournament with a loss.

Goran (left), Radan (centre) and Dragan Zelenac are retaining hope of Savez Gradiška reaching the final
Goran (left), Radan (centre) and Dragan Zelenac are retaining hope of Savez Gradiška reaching the final ©Sportsfile

In keeping with the spirit of the tournament, brothers Dragan, Radan and Goran Zelenac are in jovial mood at the Savez Gradiška AMA team hotel.

Dinamo experience
The Zagreb-born trio all featured as the Bosnian representatives began their bid for UEFA Regions' Cup glory with a 1-0 loss to Kempen AMA in Group B on Monday. A 27-year-old midfielder and tree surgeon by trade, Dragan boasts youth-team experience at Croatia's most successful club, NK Dinamo Zagreb, on his CV, while defender Radan, 25, and midfielder Goran, a year his junior, ply their trade with FK Sloga Srbac.

'Biggest achievement'
The UEFA Regions' Cup offers Europe's top amateurs a platform on which to impress watching scouts and all three were unanimous in agreement that being in Croatia is the pinnacle of their careers so far. "This is the biggest achievement in our amateur football careers," Dragan, who also turns his hand to singing in a band, told uefa.com. "We don't know what will happen in the future if we turn professional but this definitely is our biggest success so far."

'Brotherhood'
Having played for Savez Gradiška for six years, the siblings − who are all qualified referees − unsurprisingly say they know each other's game inside out. "There is a real brotherhood among us," added Goran, a youth football coach. "If a player gets past me there is Dragan to stop them and then Radan in defence further back. We always try to work together, to close down and stop the opposition."

Modesty
Radan helped Savez Gradiška reach the finals as just one of two teams not to concede a goal and although very proud of this statistic, he is keen for the efforts of his fellow defenders to be recognised. "I am very proud because we played very well during qualification," Radan, also a youth trainer, said. "However, it is not just about me, there are my team-mates in defence and we work very well together as a team."

Final dream
Their final tournament campaign may have started with defeat – and a red card for Goran – but Radan, like his brothers, is still dreaming of lifting the 43-centimetre high trophy come Monday in Zapresic. "This was the first game of the tournament and it's always hard to make that initial breakthrough," he added. "We can still reach the final, anything is possible. If the Spanish team beat Kempen then we can still get there."