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

My Dad, the Volleyball Player

Soldiers from opposing sides left disabled by Bosnian conflict reconnect through sport.
By IWPR

"It’s true we are playing with people who shot at us, and who we shot at,” Zoran Pancic said, “but we now talk to each other. We play sports and talk about our problems, which are all similar.” 

Pancic plays in a volleyball team in Republika Srpska, one of two administrative entities in Bosnia. He and his team-mates are disabled veterans of the war in Bosnia of the early 1990s.

Pancic lost a leg when he stepped on a landmine while out on patrol with the Bosnian Serb army in 1992.

Now he plays with people of other ethnicities – men like Sabahudin Borovcevic, a Bosniak who also lost a leg in fighting in the area.

“Nobody mentioned that we’d be playing against people whom we’d fought during the war,” Borovcevic said. “No one ever imagined we’d meet each other, let alone play each other at volleyball.”

These days, he said, “We are mixing with each other again. Now I have more friends who are Serb than I have among the Bosniaks who went to school with me.”

Pancic sees the volleyball matches involving ex-combatants from different sites as “a positive example of coexistence in this area”. 

“Some people maybe don’t agree and see things differently. But we can’t live in separate pens or cages – we’re a small country,” he said.

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.  

More IWPR's Global Voices