“Before the start of the Inter Campus project, the situation in Domanovici was very bad. Interaction between the Croats (Catholics, ed.) and Muslims (Bosnians, ed.) didn’t exist. There were bars and stores run by Croats and other bars and stores run by Muslims. They simply avoided each other. As for the school here, it was actually two schools under one roof and the children never crossed paths. Even the recess bell would sound 15 minutes apart so the children wouldn’t encounter each other. With this being a rural village, the youngsters were taken to school by bus. There were two buses: one for the Muslim children and another for the Croatian kids.”
These are the words of Z., who has been trying to promote intercultural dialogue for years now. They reflect the legacy of a way of thinking that is strongly influenced by stereotypes, as if a Muslim couldn’t be Croatian. Daily and constant work is required to dismantle such views, but sport could be the key to do just this. You can be Croatian or Bosnian, Muslim, Orthodox or Cathlic: no distinction should be made. This is the message that Z. is trying to transmit.
When they’re with Inter Campus, the children are allowed and encouraged to meet, get to know each other and play with one another. The aim is to cultivate a new philosophy that will also serve as an example for adults.
“The children used to play together on the pitch, but the parents were completely separate. It honestly took three years for the parents to start exchanging a few words. There were no problems with the children because they weren’t aware of these things.” Z. continued: “The best thing that I experienced had to do with my Mirko: when he was 12, his friend Riyadh – a Muslim – invited him to his house for his birthday. I took him with me and left him in that part of the village, and he remained there on his own with the Muslim youngsters. I essentially ‘used’ my child to show other Croatians that this is something which is possible.”
Just like Z., we have the responsibility to promote peace and reconciliation on a daily basis. In this respect, we can take inspiration from the football pitch, where the joy of scoring transcends every ethnic, religious, economic and social obstacle.