54) Peaceful Play

Sports, peace and conflict… different opinions about the nature of sport exist in this regard. Some say, that sport stirs up competition and it is a way to live out a conflict. Others highlight, how it can be used to teach respect and fairness and get people into contact with each other. There are numerous examples for both realities. As Story of Humanity, I want to show what kids who participated in the Open Fun Football Schools have told, to give an example of what is possible to do with the uniting power of sports, as examples of what good impact we can have.

The stories I show here are from the Football Schools that were organised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and which were visited by a school class from Denmark. Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country can be described as a post-conflict society, and is in many aspects shaped by the tricky political situation between different groups, by some segregation between groups and silences about the conflict. Therefore, a lot of peace projects like the like the Football Schools are done there— projects by different actors, with varying methods and success. Knowing that there is still a long way to what scientists call a full grown “positive peace” for the people in the regions where the Football Schools take place, it is heartwarming and hopeful to hear these “change stories”:

“My parents were not happy about the thought of me playing football with children of other minorities. At first, they would not let me play. After the war, my parents have been very much aware of what minority we belong to, but after I attended the football school, they have had a change of hearts. Now most parents are trying to have fun together, in spite of ethnicity, and that makes me very happy”.

“We learned that you cannot win a football match by yourself. You have to cooperate, and Croatians, Bosniaks and Serbs were coerced to be a team”.

“The football schools have been a wake-up call. We realized that the Serbs are also human beings and not the monsters they have been made out to be. We have learned about their traditions, which turned out to be not that different from our own”.

“Football is a bridge between Serbs and Bosniaks. If it had not been for football, I would never have contacted the Serbs. Through football, we have gained a better understanding of each other”.

Several quotes point out that through the project, people did not judge about the background every child was coming from, but that all that mattered was playing together in the teams. And that in those teams, they were actually all the same and not people from different places. Such meeting places are beautiful, because there kids can make their own experiences with others.

(The change stories were taken from the interviews that the Danish students did with their Bosnian students (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) about the Football Schools. Read more about the project and the stories on the website of the responsible organisation Cross Cultures here).

53) Pretty feeling

I was looking at some photos from the other day when I was with friends at the lake. Honestly, I thought again that I am really not pretty and I also do not have a good-looking body. Not in comparison to the others, and also not taken on its own. My thoughts, nothing you would tell others really.

Just on the same day, later at running, two friends told me that I am pretty. People, who I take serious with that, from who it is neither weird nor pure politeness to say that. It feels good to hear something that is so positive.

Anyone knows such moments, when you do not feel good in your own body, when you do not feel pretty. There is being a lot written about what we should think, feel, do, talk about in that regard. In this moment, in this story, it helped that someone simply had a different opinion.

52) Bringing emotions to the surface

Tomorrow is the day of the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide. Sich several days I am there, due to my internship, together with several other young people, mainly from the Western Balkans. Since days we learn about genocide and crimes, about transitional justice and peace. These are emotional topics, especially for those who lost family members and whose life it affects directly. I feel thoughtful, touched, but emotional? I was not that, so far.

Today Aida, the artist who created the installation “Što te nema”, did an exercise with us. We were writing names of victims of the genocide according to the family names down. Aferwards, we were standing in a circle, about 50 young people, and old what we had felt during the exercise. Tears appeared in several eyes. Because they had wrote down the own family name, because they did not even have time to write down the names of just one family… As soon as someone started talking, the emotions came. And there I felt it as well. Without any warning. Suddenly the emotions were there, I could tap directly into them. They showed themselves in tears. Before I was feeling with others, now I could feel it myself. And with every person that shared their thoughts, it became more. It felt good to be able to show the own feelings, without judgement, just understanding. Everyone’s emotions are different. I told them, that I did not know before why I could not feel anything, that I feared I would be too distanced— until now. A colleague came to me and told me, she felt the same. There were many hugs. Taking hands. Thanks to everyone who had come. We were not told that we had to do something with out life— we were given time to raise our voices. For the first time I had seen some of my colleagues emotional. For the first time I saw from some of the participants, what it means to them to be here. For the first time I felt connected to them, do I share something with them. And this is the most important thing I take away from these days. I can look at the notes from the lectures again. But this experience I will remember directly.

For me, this is a story of humanity because it showed me, what connected all of us. No matter what distances there were between us— because we did not know us well, were of different age and background, different opinions and personalities— for this moment the distance disappeared, because the emotions were so close to the surface. Very simple, through talking and listening. It is not the most important thing to me, that ambassadors show tomorrow their faces at the ceremony. But moments like this.

51) Children of „guests“

If you do not belong to any group, any family, then you create a new group of friends or family. You do not have to stay alone— and also don’t have to stay as a guest.

“I was put here into school in second grade, second or third grade, I do not remember anymore, I think it was the second. And that was a radical change. Then I suddenly had again this gentleness, those kind teachers, the children that are allowed to simply laugh and talk, together… we were baking in Germany at the Schillerschule bread. The proportion of kids with a migration background was higher for us— I had Turkish friends, Italian friends, and I was only friends with other kids of guest workers. I was never friends with a German kid.”

Did you choose that, or did it happen naturally?

“That happened automatically, because we just did not belong to the rest. Small town. Back then it we were also called ‘Foreigners’ [German: Ausländer]. Well, it was actually forbidden to say that… and also the German kids have called in the break time ‘foreigners, out!’ [German: Ausländer raus]. And because of that we always sticked together, us foreigner kids.


I was never German. I’m also not German today. I was a true guest worker child, a child of foreigners. Us, all of those who are not German, but were born in Germany and have grown up there, we became our very own culture. We are not Bosnian or Turkish, Italian, it does not play a role now, we are also not German. We also fit the best… we did get along the best with each other. I was never German. Also the first years with aunt Vera it was very clear to me, that I am ‘Yugo’, that is how we were called. I really liked the German, this lightness and joyful, the dark rye bread for dinner, the beef rolls, the dogs in the house […] Aunt Ver […] was always jolly and kind and she always had time to play with me, go for a walk with me, explaining me things, feeding ducks— and they had a garden and a little pond and there we were every weekend— that was always so nice, so joyful. But I still knew that it was not my real family and that I’m a Yugo. But when I then got to Yugoslavia, there were other Yugo’s. And they were different. And that was really weird. I cannot describe it!“

50) Playing with what is there

The context for this story is this: as the daughter of Yugoslavian guest workers, this girl was sent in the summer before entering primary school, to Yugoslavia. Without knowing land and language. How was that for her?

“[…] At the beginning of course, I was distracted by all the animals that were there— dogs, cats, cows, horses and goats— and that was all fun for me, but still the poverty… it just was present. My grandmother did not have a fridge, up to that point it had been somethings totally natural to have a fridge; she did not have a bath, when I had to bathe then there was a big plastic tub carried outside for that and water heated up on the oven. I had very long hair, and they did not have a hairdryer, to blow-dry my hair. My mum had to bring one from Germany. Also, they were very poor. The toilet was behind the house, it was a pit toilet. All of that I did not know from Germany. But it was also fascinating, it was amazing. We played throughout the whole night, catching insects, glowworms, letting old shoes swimming in a pond of slurry, riding on a horse, milking cows, so it was very exciting. I grew up there with my two uncles, they were a bit older than me and took care of me. The language I learned then within a few weeks, that went very quick. There was no one there, so you had to learn to speak.”

Do stories always need a moral? If yes, then I would say: of course life is difficult, but it can be beautiful at the same time. It is not like money would not matter, or that poverty is romantic, but beauty and joy can also be found without money.

49) (Life)long learning

„Someone recently told me, when I said that he seemed to enjoy learning new things a lot: ‚It’s one of the primary things I like about being alive‘. For me somehow, that is a beautiful thing to hear so I wanted to share it. 

I like to learn new things myself, and hearing the same from someone else, that made me happy. It doesn’t need to be school book learning— but it can be. The best thing is to realise that I have learned something. Whether it is to master for the first time a turn with a snowboard without falling, ordering in a different language without having to switch back to English or being able to connect the maths from school to the statistics course at university… the conversation reminded me of that joy.

And despite all the complains about having so much to do, whether in school or at university, I actually always liked being a student. Complaining about what is not according to plan is part of the everyday life, at least in my socio-cultural environment. But actually I love how many things we are learning.

The other day, I saw a friend starting a fundraiser, because he could not afford the fees for the first semester of studies, for something he is very passionate about. I contributed to the fundraiser. He seemed surprised, possibly because we were not in contact for a long time. But I always had luck that I had the means to study the subjects I was interested in. And because I could afford it, it is great for me to help someone to do the same, to learn. Even more so, because he had asked for the help to fulfil his dream and was happy to receive support from friends.“

48) Letters to the family

Stories of this kind you can hear more than once, they are an example to me, how family is holding together. This narration is again from someone, who came first as a guest worker to Germany.

“What I have done with the money I earned in Germany? Like I said, my parents were poor and had many children. And I have often sent money home with the mail. I sent a letter and put 10 German Mark, or 20 into it. That was a lot of money in Yugoslavia back then. And it also arrived. And sometimes I gave something to an acquaintance on the way, when I heard that they would go to Yugoslavia for holiday, I would ask if they could take 50 or 100 German Mark with them and give to my parents. When they came from the same town. And that way, one person did something for the other. And when I went myself, I took something with me for the others. You know, I grew up in a very different culture and generation. I always stood behind my parents and siblings, I always gave something and helped, so that the kids could go to school. So simple is that. Also, when I was married, we did it that way. My wife for her family and me for mine. But we always did it equally. Equal amount of money. And with my parents-in-law I got very well along. One is helping, when one can afford it.”

47) Study buddies

“Studying is indeed something quite different than being in school, which is why before I started, I did think a lot about it. And when informing yourself and looking around, you do not only hear the good stuff. I read on an online blog, that students have tried to out rival one another or work against each other. Books were hidden in the library, that other students wouldn’t find them, or wrong answers passed down. That shocked me a bit and made me think, because my school time was marked by mutual aid. I think my A-levels I earned to one third thanks to my classmates.

Luckily, the reality showed me a different picture. For example, we need to submit in maths every week a task, which does take a lot of time. But fortunately, everyone in our study-programme-group seems to have this task. No matter which question we need help with, someone knows the answer or knows someone who could help us, which is why at the end everyone in the group does a good work. And that gives me a little bit the feeling of being back in school. Because of that helping each other, when someone does not know further.”

46) In advance

This narration is from someone, who came first as a guest worker to Germany. Sometimes it is important to get something in advance, to start something new—trust, money, or a calf.

“I tried several times to get to Germany. What means several times… twice I tried to come through my uncle to Germany. And my father has been forbidding it to me. He told my uncle, he should not get involved but to leave my father’s kids alone. And then my uncle apologized when I returned from the Yugoslavian army…1969. The second time I also tried it through someone I knew. A neighbour. But that did not work out. And the third time I went directly to the employment office and no one knew about it. I went there no my own. I registered there and asked how high the chances were for me, to get to Germany. The man said, very clearly: ‘Hey boy, you are not the only one who wants to go to Germany, there are also people who bribe me with money’. Then I asked what he meant. And he said ‘Well, just give me money for some coffee’. Then I told him that I am willing to give money and he asked me how much. And I asked, what the others would give and he said, ‘there are people that are giving 500 dinar, then there are some that give 1000 or even 2000 dinar’. And then I said ‘Well, if this works, that I can go, then of course I’m also ready to give 2000 dinar’. But I did not work anywhere and had no money. I just lied. ‘I’ll put in your name and if you bring me the money, we can do that’, he said. And then I walked the whole way from the employment office home and went to my aunt. I told her, that there was a problem. I told her that there was a possibility for me to go to Germany, but that I needed to give a man 2000 dinar. And she did ‘Oooh’. She said, ‘I do not have the money for that, the only option that we have is that I sell my calf’. And I told her that if she was helping me and I got to Germany, I would never forget that. Not in my entire life. And then on the next Monday we sold the calf on the cattle market and I gave the money to the man. And he put me on the list on the very first spot. […] And on the whole way home… that was four kilometres by foot, you know, I was so hungry, and I thought ‘I’m so stupid, why did I not get myself some food from that money and then bring the man the rest’ [laughs].”

45) Among Runners

“I find it every single time again impressing, how athletes are helping each other, motivating and supporting one another, without ever having met before. Nevertheless, they are talking together, laughing or provide each other with food and such.

This was the case for me at a running competition, when I had given a little too much and just before the finish simply couldn’t run anymore and had to sit down on the side, because my body just said ‘no’. I did not even had to ask around, when already a young guy with his girlfriend came and gave me a big bottle of Sprite, which was in that moment like a present from god. It was super friendly of them and thanks to their help, I could still finish the competition. Unfortunately, I could not really thank them afterwards.

However, it always shows me how relaxed and helpful people are towards each other at sports events. Especially if you compare it to the everyday life, where people tend to complain about the smallest issues.”