Prep Soccer

Soccer saved Amir Hadzic's life

HS journalism: Xavier ended up in Cedar Rapids after fleeing Sarajevo

Cedar Rapids Xavier head coach Amir Hadzic jumps onto the pile of players after the Saints defeated Norwalk in a Class 2A semifinal at the 2016 state tournament at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. (The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier head coach Amir Hadzic jumps onto the pile of players after the Saints defeated Norwalk in a Class 2A semifinal at the 2016 state tournament at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s been said “there is always more to a person than meets the eye.”

This is true of Xavier boys’ soccer coach Amir Hadzic.

Immigrating to America from a war-torn communist Yugoslavia, Hadzic has suffered and seen some true atrocities in his lifetime. Through all he has seen, he attributes soccer to giving him all of his lucky breaks in life.

“Soccer has given me so many opportunities in this blessed life I have had,” he said. “It got me out of Bosnia, it got me to America, it got me a job, and it has brought me happiness every step of the way.”

After civil war violence in his hometown of Sarajevo, where 200,000 of his fellow Bosnians were killed and 2 million made refugees, Hadzic knew he had to leave if he wanted to save his life. He gave up playing soccer professionally and left his friends and family with only two bags.

Hadzic was forced to crawl on his stomach through a tunnel to reach the people who could get him to a refugee camp in Croatia.

“The only possession I really had that was worth a lot to me was a notebook that I wrote about every game I had played in,” Hadzic said. “I think that meant a lot to me because it had a lot of happy memories from my hometown, and it felt like I was bringing a part of that life with me.

“To this day, I still remember every game I ever played in.”

After making it to the refugee camp in Croatia, Hadzic managed to rejoin a professional club and played against some of the best teams in Europe, with Fiorentina and Leeds United among two of the prestigious ones he faced. After war threatened Croatia, Hadzic made his way to the United States and, finally, Iowa, where a vacant coaching advertisement in the newspaper landed him the coaching job at Mount Mercy University.

He eventually added the Xavier coaching job to his resume.

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“The ability to impact the lives of young people is such a blessing for me,” Hadzic said. “Everyone is able to take their peaceful lives here for granted, and it makes me happy to see this, because no one should have to go through what I went through.

“Again, I can only say I am a blessed man.”

Hadzic continues to make an impact on the players he has coached.

“Amir cares a lot about all of his players and wants the best for them on and off the field,” Xavier senior Thomas Bean said. “He has been a great coach, but more importantly, he has been a great role model.”

Hadzic hopes to lead the Xavier soccer program to another state title this year, having already won four. He will continue to build soccer in Eastern Iowa and share his experiences and knowledge with the players he coaches.

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