If you are unsure why you should love Herzegovina, I would introduce you to Zdravko Jakiša. After just one coffee with him you will start thinking about moving someplace in this warmer part of BiH – that is how passionately he talks about Herzegovina and promotes all its advantages. I am speaking from experience, I know what this interview did tome, and just how much time I later spent thinking along the lines of „And perhaps I could…“

Zdravko is a resourceful young man from Čapljina, who describes himself as an aficionado of Herzegovina and one of those who would find it hard to leave. He has also been international volleyball referee for two years, and the BiH Premier League volleyball referee for seven years running. In addition, he owns the local portal www.caportal.net, which he founded and runs with his sister, and they were motivated by the desire to present Čapljina and its environs in a positive light, and to create a place for good stories from these parts.

How did you become a volleyball referee?

When I was a kid, like all kids, I was into football. Then, some time later I no longer found it interesting. In my generation, quite a few of my colleagues went into volleyball, so I also joined a team. Moreover, with my team and in my age group, I won several BiH championships for junior cadets, cadets and juniors, and in parallel I found it interesting to see how referees to their work. So I took the test for the first rank, than, later for the second, regional rank, and later for the state rank, only to get a chance to referee the Premier League at the age of 22, which meant I had to give up competitive volleyball. With the understanding of my coach at the time, Miloš Jelčić, and with the support of my family and my entire community, I took that next step, and two years ago, the volleyball association sent me to Ankara, Turkey, to take the test for an international referee.

I refereed my first tournament in 2015 in Sofia, then one game in Hungary, afterwards in Turkey, a qualification tournament in Bar, later a qualification tournament in Riga, Latvia, and now, in early December, I am supposed to travel to Nitra, Slovakia, or Kaposvar, Hungary.

What is the situation with the volleyball in BiH, it seems it is somehow neglected?

Recently, the trend is that there are more and more women’s teams. It used to be much different, but, as there are not so many sports that women can pursue, this trend of emergence of female volleyball teams continues. However, the situation is such that in Herzegovina, we have quite a few teams, a lot of work is going on. Here in Čapljina, last year we held a camp where coaches from all overEuroep praised the fact that they could find 200-220 girls in one place, here in Čapljina, which was difficult in a city such as Zagreb. So, the situation is gradually improving, although, naturally, the most popular sports, such as football or basketball, remain predominant.

Tell me something about the Čapljina portal, what is the website?

www.caportal.net – CA was an old registration plate mark for Čapljina, which sort of gave us the idea.

You strive to promote as many beautiful and positive things as possible.

That is true, somehow, that is what we started with in 2009, when no informative website existed in Čapljina. We started with this portal, bit by bit, shyly, not so professionally from the start, with a small, amateur camera. But in these past few years, we managed to promote quite a few young people, athletes, cultural events. There is no event in the Čapljina Municipality that we are not involved with as media sponsors. And I am particularly glad that we took part in many humanitarian drives, and we helped in their implementation, by spreading information, so the public would know about those who needed help at the time.

On the basis of clicks we are getting, I believe we may be most influential in the field of electronic media, particularly since we are the only ones who have both the Twitter and Instagram profiles. We try to follow the trends that are of interest for young people.

You are passionate about Čapljina. What would you recommend to people who never came to Čapljina – why should they come, what should they see?

First of all, a beauty that Čapljina managed to preserve, it’s the clean streets, sunny days, wonderful climate, people who are always welcoming to everyone who comes to visit. And we also have Počitelj, Hutovo blato, Mogorjelo, Stari Grad in Gabela, quite a lot to see, particularly in spring and summer, when the weather here is truly great.

You said you would never leave BiH. What is keeping you here?

All this I just mentioned – people, connection with people that make up my every day. And also, our mentality, and the spirit of improvization, which you come across everywhere, even the Herzegovinian rocks may inspire people to do something for a better future and for the community.

Do you believe we can win some better times for this country?

There are so many factors that come into play, but I think we can. I believe that, in the end, it is up to us to try to create the future there where we live. Somehow, it may be easier to pack up and leave, but I believe it means much more to create something, for yourself, but then also for the entire community in the area where you were born, where you live and grow up.