Aleksandar Atanasijevic has enjoyed many great sporting moments in his fabulous career, but what he cherishes the most is all the great time he has had to spend with his teammates.
“Looking back now, we had an amazing period with Serbia - four medals from the European Championships, a World League silver medal, a fourth place at the World Championship...,” the Serbian star told Volleyball World. “But for sure the most valuable was the time spent with my teammates who I’ve known all my life and are like family to me.”
The talented young opposite was only 18 years old when he made his official debut with the men’s national team of Serbia. It was on June 6, 2010, at the Pionir hall in Belgrade, when Atanasijevic stepped in as a sub during three of the four sets of Serbia’s match against China in the FIVB Volleyball World League. He contributed two points to the victory.
“Everything I wanted and everything I dreamed of was being part of the national team and fighting for trophies. It was not easy at the beginning as I had to replace Ivan Miljkovic, one of the best players that Serbia has ever had. So I needed to give my best every day,” said the 2.00m-tall athlete.
2011 was a big year for Bata, as he is also known. He won gold at the men’s CEV European Championship and was the best scorer of the FIVB U21 World Championship, when Serbia won bronze. That year delivered a turning point in the talented young Serb’s club career too, as he won his first national title in Serbia and moved from his native Partizan Belgrade to Polish powerhouse PGE Skra Belchatow.
With Skra, Atanasijevic won bronze and was the best scorer at the 2012 FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship. In the same year, he earned silver at the 2012 CEV Champions League, won the Polish Cup and Super Cup, finished second in the league and then went on to play at his first Olympic Games, in London.
An FIVB U23 World Championship silver and a EuroVolley bronze were the medals Atanasijevic claimed at the national team level in 2013. At the former he was named Dream Team opposite; at the latter he was the best scorer.
“An individual performance is not so important, so I never really pay much attention to them," he said. "The most important thing is to keep winning with your team.”
Also in 2013, the Serbian star moved to the club he still plays at today, Italy’s Sir Safety Perugia. With them he has won a number of domestic trophies, medals and individual awards, as well as a 2017 Champions League silver and a 2018 Champions League bronze.
“Honestly, I am living my dream in Perugia! I came here seven years ago. The club were not among the top ones, but we’ve been growing... Now we are one of the strongest teams in Europe and it is a big pleasure to be part of it,” said Atanasijevic.
In the meantime, the formidable striker has continued his successful path with the Serbian national team. He made the Dream Team of the 2015 World League when Serbia won silver at the finals in Brazil. The semifinal with USA was one of the most difficult and most memorable games in Atanasijevic’s career.
“There were difficult matches like the one against the United States in 2015 when we were losing, I think, 10-6 in the tie-break and we managed to win and go to the final of the World League,” he recalled.
“Or the match against France in Paris...,” he continued, referring to the semifinal of EuroVolley 2019, which Serbia won in a five-set drama, before moving on to a continental gold triumph with Atanasijevic once again honoured on the Dream Team.
But the 29-year-old player also remembers some of the more disappointing moments of his career... if you can call the fourth place at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship disappointing.
“We were dreamingof winning a medal at the World Championship and finishing fourth after three months of preparation was one of the worst defeats in my life. It was really disappointing, but we showed that we could fight with the best teams in the world,” he said.
“This past decade was a great period for me and now, talking about the last 10 years, I realised that I am getting older,” Atanasijevic added. “There have been so many great and unforgettable moments. They gave me a chance to grow as a player and live my dream. My experience on the volleyball courts has taught me to keep believing and not to give up even when all odds are against you. That would be my advice to everyone who reads this article: you need to learn how to ‘suffer’ in a positive way, if you want to achieve your goals.”
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