Children bridging the gap
Aug 16 2004

Children bridging the gap

Some 230 children from Mostar West, Mostar East and Nervesine –
Croats, Muslims and Serbs – attended a UEFA-backed Open Fun Football
School in the Bosnia-Herzegovnian city last week.

Old bridge ceremony
The closing ceremony was relocated to the old bridge in Mostar. The
Open Fun Football School was thus part of the official international
cultural festival celebrating the reopening of the old bridge built
during the Ottoman Empire, destroyed during the war and reconstructed
with assistance from the European Community.

Historical monument
“The bridge is part of Mostar’s specific identity,” said school
leader Mensud Durakovic. “First of all, the bridge and its
construction is unique. It is a historic and national monument, and
is also the bridge between the divided Muslim and Croat societies of
Mostar East and Mostar West – and therefore acts as a symbol of the
reunification of people in Mostar.”

UEFA charity partner
This summer, Cross Cultures is organising 120 Open Fun Football
Schools for 25,000 boys and girls from 8-12 years in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, F.Y.R. Macedonia,
Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Open Fun Football Schools are
part of the UEFA charity portfolio, and the objective is to promote
grassroots football and to use football to bridge the gap between
children, trainers, leaders and football clubs from divided

Meeting Place
Throughout August, the city of Mostar has been organising an
international cultural festival under the theme Meeting Place, to
celebrate the reconstruction of the old bridge. One of the main
events was the closing ceremony of the Open Fun Football School.

Bridge between children
“The Open Fun Football School has been an important event during the
cultural festival. This is a concrete activity whereby children from
the different communities have met for the first time since the war,”
explained Durakovic. “This has been a week where football has served
as the bridge between children from the different communities of
Mostar. We have had Croat, Muslim and Serb children playing football

Football for all
“We have had teams of disabled children, orphans, displaced people
and children from other vulnerable groups integrated into the Open
Fun Football School. Through this, we have demonstrated that football
is for all, and that football is an important means that can bring us
all together,” he added. “But this is just the start. We are going to
follow up in the coming month with smaller events and matches, so
that the children can keep up the contact, because the children are
important to us. They are the future.”