"The war suffering is joining all of us and we know what we had to go through and that make us stronger and that holds us together even though that seems strange to some people."
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s men’s sitting volleyball team have a special relationship, not only because they have been through many Paralympic Games together, but also because most experienced the tragedy of the Bosnian War between 1992-1995. For Safet Alibasic, the team’s bond is strong, and that what would be key for gold at Rio 2016.
“The war suffering is joining all of us and we know what we had to go through and that make us stronger and that holds us together even though that seems strange to some people. That gives us strength as a team,” Alibasic said.
After winning gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Bosnia and Herzegovina won their second World Championships in 2014 and also followed that up with the 2015 European title.
Each victory holds a different meaning for Alibasic, who injured his right leg after stepping on a landmine.
“Our only goal and expectation is defending our gold medal,” Alibasic said. “If we win gold again, that will help us to confirm and justify all our efforts, preparation and commitment.”
Alibasic has been part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Paralympic team since Athens 2004. Along with Sabahudin Delalic and Ermin Jusufovic, the trio were among the core who have been on the teams at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
However the final squad for Rio 2016 has yet to be announced, as Alibasic said they are in the “second phase” of the three cycles of preparation.
As he awaits the full roster, his focus is on Rio, where he knows expectations are high.
“Of course it does,” said Alibasic when asked if being the defending Paralympic and world champions puts on pressure. “We have to focus on playing and not to let that pressure affect our game and our results. We have played as a team for a long time so we all know what to expect.”
Iran has also been a dominant force in the sport and both had played against each other in the majority of major finals, including the gold-medal match at London 2012.
But Alibasic believes there may be other nations ready to break the stranglehold the two teams have of the sport, including Brazil, whom his team faced in the 2014 World Championships finals.
“The national team of Iran is one of the greatest opponents but Brazil as organiser of the Games is definitely very strong, so we will see,” Alibasic said. “It’s up to us to fight to the victory.”
Having been at the forefront for over a decade, and after taking into account what could happen in Rio less than 40 days’ time, the 33-year-old does not intend for Rio to be his last Games.
“I promised myself that I will play until 2024 if I do not have any serious sports injuries,” Alibasic said.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.