Where it all began
Even though the war in Bosnia Herzegovina officially came an end in 1995 (and in Kosovo 2001), the war still linger inside people’s minds and hearts. On one hand the older generation, who has lived and fought a war on different sides of the frontline, still remember all the atrocities they have witnessed. On the other hand the younger post-war generation has grown up with nationalistic and ethnocentric politicians pursuing further cleavages and initiatives between nations, regions, entities as well as ethnic population groups and minorities across the region – for example the school system, which in many cities are still divided along ethnic affiliations and which is known as: “two-schools-under-one-roof”.
In this way, many communities have developed into a so-called “split-screen-nightmare”, where children and young people from one side of the road do not go to school or spend their leisure time together with children from the other side of the road. In other words, they don´t share the present and their future together and their neighbours become “the others” who are the ones you talk about and not the peers you talk with.
In addition, today’s young generation often feels disenfranchised and situated in a limbo of prolonged waiting – a limbo in which they continuously wait an opportunity to work, earn money, marry, and achieve participation and influence, and they do not know who can help them to have a better life. Consequently, tens of thousands of young people emigrate these years to other countries. Alone from Bosnia Herzegovina more than 62,000 young people emigrated to other countries in 2017 and the largest group of immigrants who came to Germany in 2018 came from the Western Balkans.
The twin-city approach
On this basis, it is still relevant to organise all Open Fun Football Schools in compliance with our so-called twin-city approach where children from minimum 2 municipalities and three local football clubs/schools are playing together. Thus, by mixing the children from antagonistic population groups at the Open Fun Football Schools we ensure that the children always are interacting and playing with each other and not against each other. In this way we provide the children a platform and activities where they experience that they have something in common with the peers they would otherwise see as ‘others’ – that they find new ways to live peacefully with each other.
Furthermore, Cross Cultures adhere to a regional strategy in the sense that all voluntary leaders and coaches are trained on regional seminars with participants from all the Western Balkan countries and at the respective Open Fun Football Schools the voluntary leaders and coaches are also mixed with each other. And by showing and putting people’s experiences into words as well as putting their resources at stake in a new way, the programme contributes as an inspiration to those seeking to find a new, peaceful and sustainable way of solving common problems.
Providing youth a platform
Today, Cross Cultures is in process of transforming our strategic focus from the ´older´ generation (the former combatants) to the younger post-war generation. In this way Open Fun Football Schools also become a platform for youth to contribute to social changes in their home communities as well as it is providing them an instrument to gain hands-on experience of how to communicate and operationalize their ideas and visions for society.
*Statistics from Day 1 to year 2021