64 | Hepromised to call at the agreed time, but didn’t do so. I understood that SlobodanKovačwas very busy after winninggold at theEuropeanChampionshipswiththeSerbian national team, so I awaited him patiently.When he nally called, he immediately told me how some people who are far more important than me had waited for him due to some much more important things. “I’mknown for being late.When I was called to be the head coach, I rst considered, then cut o . They toldme to come to ameetingwithZoranGajić, presidentof the Volleyball Association, on Friday at 6pmat an agreed place. I was late, of course, and everyone was already wondering where I was. I entered, saw that they’d all sighed, then said: “Sorry I’m late, but if I was able towait four years for you, youcouldwait a fewminutes for me! Well, that’s also the case with this interview,” - exclaims the proverbially calmKovač, almost chokingwith laughter. We sawthat thewait for the invitation from theVolleyball Association paid o at the end of September, when Serbia’s volleyball players took the title of continental champions. “Honestly, it was arduous, but I nd it muchmore arduous than anything that happened tous on the road togoldhaving all these interviews and media attention, which I particularly dislike. So, here I am, heading with my wife to the seaside. This is the holiday that I owed her when I accepted the invitation to be national team coach,” says a high-spirited Kovač. His wife’s now-cult statement that she was “left without a holiday” because her partner got a job and toured the entire region. “Ha-ha-ha, that’s true, but here’swhat happened: wewere holiday at Silver Lake, where I have boarding houses, and in the end she went to the coast. She’s actually a former volleyball player, so she understands all the responsibilities I have. Now that it’s all over, the only thing I wanted to do was go to the lake and to sh. And I did that, but then I went to the seaside with Tanja, not to let her down,” he says. After mentioning Silver Lake, he told an interesting story about howhebuilt his apartments in this resort ineasternSerbia. “I’m a native of Veliko Gradište and when we won a medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics I was given a plot of land fromtheMunicipality. But I’mnot the only one to have received a gift frommy home town. Kvisko Vujović received a painting from Budva, the Grbić brothers got a log cabin on the River Tisa, Vlada Batez got a Yugo car, Željko Tanasković got rakia. The Municipality promised him that he would receive the rakia25years afterwinning the medal. And as I’d already been given that plot of land from my small and poor municipality, I decided to build apartments. I nished them in 2000, and since then I’ve usedevery sparemoment togo to the lake. That’s my mini paradise,” says Slobodan. Kovačhadalreadymentionedthathe’s married to a former volleyball player, but their son,David, isalso involved inthesport. “If you’ve seen me warring with the players, then you can imagine that I’m100 timesworsewithmy son.Youhaveno idea how much I delve into myself in order to explain something tohim, and in response I’mmet by“well, I just won’t”. But he’s now at that age. He’s very talented and it isn’t easy for him to be David Kovač. When I’m not on the court and don’t have obligations at the club, I spend time trainingwith my son. We’re either out on the court or watching volleyball on TV, so I’m explaining things to him. To be honest, we live a very boring life. Both my wife Tanja and I are focused on our son and constantly checkhowhe’s trained, whether he’s eaten well etc. See, Tanja is laughing, she’s next to me, but we are really a sporting family orientated towards volleyball,” says the head coach candidly. Kovačclaims that it’smuchtougher for himnowthan itwaswhenhewas aplayer. “Beingaplayer iseasy, youalwayshave friends who are also there for you when thingsaren’tgoingwell.Nomatterhowbad youare, therewill always be someonewho will tell you,“Bravo,maestro!You can’t play onyourown, everyonehas toget involved”. But there’snoneof thatwhenyou’reacoach. You have to watch every step they make, how they eat, whether something’s bothering them, whether they’re too euphoric or something bad is happening to them. Being a coach is muchmore demanding.” However, in theend, despite the team having only 21 days under Kovač’s leadership to prepare for the European Championships, everything turned out well. “Thank God it was so. Honestly, they accepted me nicely, and likewise I them. They respect me, just as I do the whole team. We had an emotional rst encounter, but in the end it all paid o . Now the focus isonqualifying for theOlympics.May God help us, because it will be devilishly di cult for us to succeed in that,” concludes Kovač. Da se čekanje na poziv Odbojkaškog saveza isplatilo, videli smo krajem septembra, kada su odbojkaši stigli do titule prvaka Evrope We saw that the wait for the invitation from the Volleyball Association paid off at the end of September, when Serbia’s volleyball players took the title of continental champions