"We'll try to do better than last time – and maybe reach the final," said the Tuzla coach as the Bosnian representatives mine for gold in the UEFA Regions' Cup.
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"Getting to the finals is a great success," said coach Dževad Šećerbegović as he looked forward to leading Tuzla into their second UEFA Regions' Cup final tournament. "We will try to do better than last time – and maybe reach the final."
Tuzla came agonisingly close to that target on their debut in 2007, Fuad Grbešić's team going into their last game top of their group only to lose to eliminated French side Basse Normandie. Bronze medals as the best group runners-up in Bulgaria were some consolation, yet the current crop will attempt to do better under local soccer legend Šećerbegović, who also took charge of Tuzla in their 2012/13 UEFA Regions' Cup qualification tilt.
The third-largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tuzla is something of a footballing hotbed; national-team players Elvir Rahimić, Sejad Salihović, Miralem Pjanić, Ervin Bičakčić, Mirsad Bešlija and Mirsad Dedić all come from the Tuzla area, as does former Croatian international Boris Živković. Football has been popular here for over a century, with Šećerbegović's old club – FK Sloboda Tuzla – founded in 1919. The Crveno-crni (Red and Blacks) are among 120 clubs in the region, with about 6,500 players affiliated to the Tuzla canton association, making for a thriving amateur scene.
Many of Tuzla's players work in the local coal and salt mines, or in related industries, with goalkeeper Dino Hamidović, defender Haris Mehanović, midfielder Nedžad Djanić and forward Majid Šmigalović all showing impressive form in qualifying. Tuzla got the better of sides from Belarus, Italy and Portugal in intermediary round Group 7 to book their place in Ireland this June and July.
"We have quality and with a little luck we will have something to be proud of come the end of the tournament," said Šećerbegović who, as a midfielder, was capped seven times by Yugoslavia and played abroad with Beşiktaş JK.