My Birthday in Bosnia

My first two weeks in Sarajevo, Bosnia have been nothing short of amazing. In addition to attending classing, and making a non-trivial amount of progress with the language, I have also had a few cultural experiences that have been deeply gratifying.

Last Thursday my fellow students and I were taken to a football match by one of the in-country American Councils staff members. She took us to see a local club— Željezničar— play a Montenegrin team. The club with the most point after two games advances to the league tournament. I don’t pretend to know all that much about European football, but the match was fun from the beginning. As hundreds of fans streamed into the stadium, they all started singing, banging chairs, and yelling at the opposing team’s players. During warmups we were seated behind the goal of the opposite team, and every time their goalie failed to stop a shot, or a player missed the net they would sarcastically applaud. The first half was largely uneventful, at least to my untrained eye. And because our team successfully kept the ball at the opposite end of the field for the vast majority of the half, I couldn’t really figure out what was happening. The second half, however, was electric. The first 10 minuets our team had at least three shots on goal. In the 12th minutes a corner kick was perfectly delivered and GOAL!!!! One of our strikers had headed it past an off-kilter goalie. The score was 1-0. But never once did the fans let up. There were at least three times in the second half when a thousand coaches from the stands thought that their players weren’t being aggressive enough. Inevitably, every single time they would yell, whistle, curse, and ultimately boo their own players. In minute 88 one of the Montenegrin players went over the back of our players while attempting to head a ball. Our player immediately crumpled, and was carted off the field after having a a bandage wrapped around his head. The fans spent a full two minutes whistling at the referees for not presenting the offender with a yellow card. The the final whistle drew the match to a close a joyous round of the team song rose up from the fans. As we streamed out of the stadium a guy took out his teeth and hoisted them in the air to celebrate. On Thursday, July 6th the team will head to Montenegro to play the final game regular season game, but with a win at home they are in a good position to make it to the playoffs. The following photos were taken by a friend, and show American Councils students at the match holding the flag of the local team:

On June 30th I turned twenty-nine in Sarajevo, Bosnia. It was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. I spent the first part of the day in classes, and the wonderful staff at American Councils brought me cake! In the afternoon a friend and I met for coffee, then took a taxi to the old Olympic bobsled and luge track in Trebević. We spent a good two hours walking down the abandoned track, looking at the graffiti painted on it. The following photos were taken by me as we walked: