Andjela Ilić about Cross Cultures: “It’s a life-changing experience”

Cross Cultures is a program that brings together children and youth from different backgrounds to play football and learn valuable life skills. Andjela, who has been involved with the program since she was six years old, shared her experience and insights on the impact of Cross Cultures on her life and the communities around the world.

How the journey started

In 2002, Andjela was six years old in the Serbian town of Babusnica, where she first participated in Cross Cultures’ Open Fun Football School.

“One morning, when I was six years old, my father woke me up and asked me if I wanted to play football. I said yes, and that is how my journey [at Cross Cultures] started.”

Andjela Ilic from Cross Cultures

Andjela Ilić's journey with Cross Cultures

“My father is my biggest motivator. He has played football his whole life and has literally put his heart on the field,” said the coach.

Over the years, Andjela has seen Cross Cultures evolve, but the core concept has remained the same. “The biggest change for me is the new topics being processed. But I like that the fundamental concept remains the same,” she said.

Twenty-seven years old Andjela started her journey as an assistant coach when she was too old to participate as a player. It was a pleasure for her to give back to the community as a coach that could make children smile. “It was a great experience because I got a chance to work with kids and make them smile,” she said. 

But it’s not only about the smiles. It’s also about making the community’s children healthier and changing their status quo. “Knowing that you do something to make their time healthier, better and funnier for even 30 minutes, how much one rotation lasts, means a lot to me,”

Andjela Ilic from Cross Cultures

It's a life-changing experience

Andjela has many memorable moments from her time as a coach. It was hard to pick one specific moment that was the most memorable moment of her journey with Cross Cultures. “All moments are memorable. I have a lot of memories, and I hope I will create more,” Andjela said.

"Don't give up even if you stumble across an obstacle"

As the coach’s role changed over the years, so did she. “I started as a participant in 2002. In 2010, I became an assistant, and from 2014 till now, I have been a coach. I was changing as my role was changing too. The biggest challenge always was whether the kids would accept me,”

For anyone just starting as a volunteer with Cross Cultures, Andjela had this advice: “Don’t give up even if you stumble across an obstacle. It is a life-changing experience.”

Andjela shared a story about a participant who particularly touched her. “It was on Youth Council in Tunisia. I met some friends from South Sudan. The conditions in which their kids are trained truly touched me. They showed us that no obstacle could stop us from following our dreams and doing what we love,” she said.

"That's why this project name is OPEN Fun Football Schools"

Through the 21 years journey with Cross Cultures, Andjela believes that Cross Cultures has helped her grow as a person. “It made me a better person. I learned that there are no differences in skin colour, nationality, or language barriers… are not important. We are all the same. That’s why this project’s name is OPEN Fun Football Schools.”

Andjelas’s journey with Cross Cultures has been life-changing. She has been a part of the program since she was six years old, and through it, she has learned valuable life skills, made lasting memories and friendships and grown as a person. Andjela believes that Cross Cultures can continue to create a more significant impact in communities around the world.

Andjela Ilic from Cross Cultures