‘Football Zajedno’ – three football associations from the Western Balkans come together to promote equality and non-discrimination

Despite the postponement of EURO 2020, UEFA quickly committed to its 2020–24 funding cycle for HatTrick – the football development programme which, every four years, channels UEFA EURO revenue to UEFA’s 55 member associations. In a special series, we talk to a selection of national associations about groundbreaking football projects that will continue to thrive thanks to UEFA’s commitment.

In this third of a five parts, our focus turns to the ‘Football Zajedno’ project involving three national associations in the Western Balkans.

What is Football Zajedno?

Football Zajedno (‘Football Together’) is a truly unique collaboration involving the associations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, using innovative and creative initiatives to shine a light on intercultural dialogue and social inclusion.

The project uses football to advocate for equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups and minorities, and brings people that were once divided together on equal playing fields.

It is mainly funded through UEFA’s HatTrick programme and is coordinated by the Austrian Fairplay Initiative at the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC). The project started in 2016 for an initial four years. It will now be continued in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro for another four.

All you need to know

Football Zajedno brings together relevant stakeholders such as NGOs, minority groups, grassroots initiatives and football clubs and associations from the partner countries.

The project focuses on the empowerment of disadvantaged groups and enhances the equal participation of girls and women through football.

Amil Gerina, grassroots manager with the Football Association of Montenegro, said: "Despite many challenges during the [COVID-19] pandemic, we decided to continue the project in cooperation with fellow associations of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The project promotes social inclusion and diversity, empowering youth, women and girls, minority and ethnic groups. The main activities are split into several modules, such as educational (training of target groups), playing on field (more than 2,000 children have played in mini-tournaments) and finally public awareness – topics such as diversity and social inclusion are presented to a wider audience, including spectators, fans and governing bodies."

A practical example: girls’ football festival

Each year, 100 girls from the four partner countries come together for a three-day festival in Vienna to celebrate football through a broad educational programme that addresses all three social topics.

In collaboration with local clubs, the programme includes joint training sessions, workshops, a scavenger hunt in mixed groups throughout the city of Vienna and a tournament. In 2017 and 2018, the programme also included public viewings of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Intercultural exchange is established in a spirited way with an educational and cultural programme including subjects such as sexism, nationalism, respect, fair play and the empowerment of girls.

What are the benefits of Football Zajedno?

• The collaboration between three associations provides a platform to share ideas, knowledge and best practice and helps to overcome nationalism in a post-war conflict region.

• Football Zajedno addresses the tensions between ethnic minorities and sends a positive message related to togetherness.

• Beyond ethnic minorities, the project also has a clear focus to empower girls and women.

• The unique collaboration supports local networks between football stakeholders (associations, clubs, coaches and players) and civil society organisations (NGOs, social initiatives and projects, activists).

What is coming next?

Owing to COVID-19, planned regional and international activities between April and September 2020 had to be cancelled. This included tournaments, as well as the planned camp in June. In July 2020, the football associations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro committed to the continuation of the project for another period of four years.

Currently, the focus is set on the development of online tools and an e-learning platform. Positively, coaches and facilitators were able to implement six fairplay workshop stations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 2020.

Flexibility is key

The project remains flexible, with activities planned on a day-to-day basis. If required, activities can be postponed or switched with others that were originally planned for a later stage, depending on the local restrictions that apply.

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