Calling all football fans: Football Beyond Frontiers tours the Balkans

Football Beyond Borders (www.footballbeyondborders.org) is an NGO run entirely by volunteers that aims to use football to tackle political, social and cultural issues.

They are organising a tour to the Balkans this summer (previous tours have taken in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Brazil and Ghana) to promote racial tolerance with messages through football, one cultural medium which still divides the Balkan countries in partisan, volatile fashion.

The tour will take place from 28th August – 18th September 2013. The group going on tour will be made up of 24 individuals of mixed gender and of diverse ethnic backgrounds. On the tour, they will ravel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, teaming up with local grass-roots organisations. These include:

OSCE – Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (www.osce.org)
Belgrade – Belgrade Faculty of Sports and Physical Education, Balkan Alpe Adrian Project
Sarajevo – Bubamara BC (www.bubamara.ba), The Orhideja Stolac Association (orhideja.org/wordpress)
Mostar – United World College Mostar (www.uwcmostar.ba)
Zagreb – qSPORT (int.qsport.info)

They aim to organise multi-ethnic football tournaments to bring divided footballing communities, especially those from rival fan groups, together and preach our inclusive, anti-racist, anti-sexist stance. Staying at the homes of local families will also help us to integrate deeper into the community.

To raise money for the tour, they have been staging events across London, such as mixed-gender football tournaments, and on 25th August they will be hosting a dinner at Russell Square, London. They welcome all interested parties to the dinner, which will be a 3-course meal at £20 per person, including keynote speakers from those closely involved with the tour and the organisation including Jasper Kain, the founder of Football Beyond Borders.

They also have a sponsoring page which gives full, comprehensive details on the tour, including a promotional video on our work:

http://www.sponsume.com/project/football-beyond-borders-leveling-playing-field

They would therefore welcome any feedback or support that you may have for our work, as we are constantly seeking partner organisations that we can work with to strengthen our message.

For further details please see:

Football Beyond Borders – http://www.footballbeyondborders.org
Balkans Tour Sponsorship – http://www.sponsume.com/project/football-beyond-borders-leveling-playing-field

A Waiting Story: the border guard, coach driver and me

I’m in a brief queue which has decanted from the decrepit coach we’re travelling in from Niš to Sofia. The coach has seen better days and an eerie green luminiscent light which won’t be switched off has accompanied us for the past 2 hours all the way up to the border.

The penultimate guy in the queue – a Japanese backpacker – is called forward by the burley Balkan guard. He looks hard at him, hard at the passport and then back to the backpacker. ‘Is this you?’ he sneers and the traveller confirms it is. There’s a pause. He’s waved through and he calls me upto the desk.

He takes a lot of interest in my passport. He opens it, looks at the photo, flicks through the pages, looks at me, at the photo, at the text above it. He gets up and goes off to find a friend. A few minutes later he returns with friend who goes through the same routine; looks at me, at picture, flick through the passport, look at me, look at the photo. They now bend the passport back and look at the stitching of the paperwork.

I feel pretty relaxed through all this. They’re doing this because this is their job. They do it all the time. There is nothing untoward about my passport. I’ve had it in my possession all week long. Hang on – that’s not true. It was in the desk of the concierge all week. Maybe… Maybe someone had taken it out and done something to it. Photocopied it? Graffitied all over it? Replaced the picture? I start momentarily to get slightly nervous. And this probably shows.

‘Is this yours?‘ The friend stares hard at me.
Yes‘, I reply. ‘It is.’
Ok.’ Pause.
You can go.’ Just like that. That’s a bit more unnerving. No further examination or questioning. Just go. Now.

The problem is now that I’m last out of the shack and I can’t see my coach anywhere. I walk over to another border guard in a cabin and ask where the coach is and he just says go go go and I have no idea where he means. There’s someone next to him who looks like my driver. ‘Are you my driver?’ I ask him and he has no idea what I’ve said and so shrugs, mutters something and walks off.

I walk back to the pathway which leads out of the border control and through some passengers from what I think is another bus and up a slope to where I think my bus might have gone. But there’s nothing at the top of the slope apart from a garage and a couple of long distance German trucks. It’s gotten foggy. There’s no cafe nearby which might have been a site for a coach to have stopped in. There’s nothing now anywhere – apart from an impending sense that the coach has left the border station complete with my baggage, laptop, credit cards and eerie green light. All I have is a mobile phone with a dwindling battery. And a growing sense of impending panic.

There’s a brief foghorn call at the bottom of the slope. It sounds like it could have been a coach horn. But I’m not sure so walk towards what looks like a coach, but it’s nothing like the coach I was travelling in. I walk up to its front and check its destination: Sofia. This is my coach, but it can’t be. Where has it been all this time? I get on and see the same passengers that I left Niš with. Where did they get to? How did I miss them? Why are they looking so irritated?

One of them says ‘chauffeur’ and I repeat back at him ‘chauffeur’? And straight away stumbling up the steps comes the driver – the same one who drove us all here, in that eerie green light, the same one who muttered at me at the border cabin only this time he’s not muttering but shouting loudly, abusively with ‘ingleski‘ somewhere in the mix accompanied by other words which probably resemble words such as ‘tosser‘ or worse. I speak loudly back at him in my best restrained Englishman aboard mode but he just says something which resembles a verbal spit. One of the passengers says something to him but I can’t figure out whether he’s on my side or not.

Either way, the driver starts the coach, we drive off at pace and I slouch back in my seat. It is at least my bus, eerie green light and all.

AspireBalkans – MISIM ZNAŠ, TAJ RAD; BRATE!

Greetings to the AspireBalkans blog, a one shop blog spot with information, offers, proposals, hunches and ideas about our forthcoming arts and creative education programmes across the Balkans. We’ve been working in Serbia since 2010, are building relationships in Macedonia, and looking forward to making new friends and colleagues in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Slovenia and across the region in the years to come.

Our work in Obrenovac, Serbia started here:

https://drnicko.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/poetry-on-the-serbian-hoof/

And carries on here:

http://pascotd.weebly.com/index.html

Watch this space for further action!