Tamara Benkovic: “A huge step forward for women”

How the journey started for Tamara Benkovic

Tamara’s journey with Cross Cultures is filled with growth, challenges, and meaningful experiences. Her involvement with the program started at a young age, as she first participated in the Open Fun Football Schools as a child. “My first football step was taken at Open Fun Football Schools, but the real connection between Cross Cultures and me started with the first seminar for coaches and leaders, and after that seminar, it was hard not to fall in love with the activities that the organization carries out,” said Tamara.

Tamara Benkovic with kids at Cross Cultures' Open Fun Football Schools

Tamara's journey with Cross Cultures

Tamara Benkovic is a 25-year-old woman from Orasje in Bosnia and Herzegovina who has played many different roles within Cross Cultures, starting as a participant and working her way up to becoming a coach and, eventually, an leader. “I went through all the roles in the organization. I was a participant as a child. After that, I volunteered, became a trainer, and finally became an instructor/leader. Such gradual progress helped me a lot in understanding the roles in the organization. It was clear to me how to do exercises with children because I was once one of them. I knew how to advise a volunteer because I knew what kind of advice I received. The biggest challenge for me was, as it is today, the fact that I was much younger than all the coaches, I didn’t have much experience, but I try to pass on as much as possible to others,” she said.

"My personal goal was to include as many girls as possible in the program who will one day become instructors and leaders"

Tamara has also seen the organization grow and develop, with more girls involved in the activities. “As I said, many more girls are involved in the activities, which is great. There were more and more interested children from year to year, and I think the organization has become a brand. Hardly anyone you ask on the street about OFFS (Open Fun Football Schools) will say they know what it is,” she said.

One of Tamara’s proudest accomplishments is her involvement in the Adidas Breaking Barriers project, which aimed to bring football closer to girls and create a safe space for them. “My personal goal was to include as many girls as possible in the program who will one day become instructors and leaders. Two years ago, we became part of the Adidas Breaking Barriers project, which was a huge step forward for women. We brought football closer to girls through camps and festivals, a safe world for girls. We learned to break barriers, respect, and create a safe space,” she said.

Tamara Benkovic Breaking Barriers Adidas

Tamara Benkovic has seen first-hand how children and youth benefit from participating in the Open Fun Football Schools. “In all the drawings, the child is in the centre. Likewise, I want children and young people to learn a lot about respect, culture and communication through the activities at Open Fun Football Schools. The most important thing is that they lack games and fun. Today children have replaced playgrounds with computers,” she said.

Working with Cross Cultures has also profoundly impacted Tamara’s personal and professional growth. “Cross Cultures helped me a lot and, among other things, guided me in what I want to do in life. I learned a lot about responsibility, communication, and cooperation. My confidence also increased in the organization. The most important thing is leadership, which is very important in coaching. Today, I am the youngest female coach in the first Croatian women’s football league, which was greatly helped by the experience of working with Cross Cultures,” she said.

Tamara Benkovic as a volunteer at Cross Cultures' Open Fun Football Schools
Tamara Benkovic as a coach at Cross Cultures' Open Fun Football Schools

One of Tamara’s most memorable experiences with Cross Cultures was when she was asked to become an instructor. “The main moment when I started to understand the organization as something big and felt that I was starting to contribute much more to the community was when Vildana called me at a camp and told me to become an instructor. I was 20 years old at the time.”

25-year-old Tamara Benkovic means sports is the healthies environment to develop and learn and is today a platform she uses every day to make life better for people.
“Football is the healthiest environment for growing up and learning. We learn to accept differences and respect others, and we learn that defeat does not have to be bad. This is also crucial in life, which is precisely why I believe people who grow up through sports understand things in life much more easily. Because as they say: “Never a defeat, only a lesson.”