Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bosnia: The Match

Serbs and Bosniaks play together on Srebrenica’s football team.

Just short of ten years after the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the local football was resurrected with a multi-ethnic team that defies the town’s horrific past.

After the team was re-established, managers decided to start a training school for young players.

Former professional footballers Nermin Pasalic, a Bosniak, and his childhood friend Drago Radovic, who is Serb, ran the club in the early years after it started up again.

“None of us cared about names,” Radovic says. “We were interested in the quality of the players and whether they were up to our standards on the football pitch.

“Our biggest success in those three-and-a-half or four years was that there wasn’t a single incident between Serbs and Bosniaks, Serbs and Serbs, or
Bosniaks and Bosniaks.”

Pasalic’s father was killed in the 1995 massacre, and he was able to identify his remains only in 2006.

“The pain is always with me. Every child mourns his parents, but life has to go on,” he says. “Drago Radovic and the others are not to blame for what happened to my family. The people who have been convicted of war crimes are to blame for what happened.”

Team coach Milan Pavlovic says, “The aim of this club is to keep sport above all national and religious interests.”

Pavlovic says the young people now on the training programme “lost their childhood, lost their fathers, uncles and grandfathers.”

Despite this, he says that “we don’t have problems with ethnic animosities”.  

This film was produced as part of the Ordinary Heroes project, funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Sarajevo. IWPR is implementing the project in partnership with the Post-Conflict Research Centre in Sarajevo.  

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