“When you practice a sport, you’re not supposed to look at nationalities. You’re just friends, seeking to play together”

           From the Ancient Olympic Games to the next Football World Cup, sports have always had a tremendous importance in our civilizations. From the kids playing ball in a remote field to a renown professional champion, sport is an adventure that no one escapes from. It shapes who we are, as individuals and as groups of people. We go to the stadium, dress in the colours of our club, scream and cry, chant and cheer, to support our team. Because sports are a matter of “us”, of togetherness, of encounters and friendship. Mitrovica has been associated with the world of sports for a long time now. On Friday 22 February, we wanted to hear more about this particular history by asking the ones who made the city of sports, by playing with its colours for decades.


         “It is always a special feeling to talk about sports” started Zumra Kabashi. A player of basketball since primary school, she chose this sport because it was popular at the time. But over time, it became more than just a trend for her. She continued playing for a very long time. “I should thank myself”, she said when she noted that she was part of a winning team, which brought great results back home. She is not active anymore, but she still watches basketball, as a tribute to her long-lasting passion.

Lindita Haxhimehmeti, born and raised in Mitrovica, also expresses how it is a “special emotion” for her to come and talk in front of our audience, mostly because she was never asked before to do so. She then happily explains her relationship with sports. There was this match in 1982, the finale of the Football World Cup opposing Germany to Italy. She watched it with her family. She could feel the thrill, the tension, the connection between players. This match 37 years ago changed her life. From this moment, she wanted to be part of this world of sports. She’s been an active player of handball since this same year.

As for Ajet Shosholli, more used to speak in front of crowds and cameras, we still heard the same beginning of the story. He started to play football for Trepça/Trepča at 12 years old. He ended his player’s career at 27, but quickly became a coach, most of the time for his cherished first team. He did not have a break since. Football has always been his only job and his all life. To this day, his biggest pleasure as a coach remains when he brought his team to rank first in the Yugoslavian First Federal League. “It was a historic moment” he reminded us.

Storytellers: Zumra Kabashi, Ajet Shosholli and Linda S. Haxhimehmeti

       Trepça/Trepča was one of the biggest teams in Yugoslavian football. The team holds a record: it was never excluded from the League for 28 years. From those times, Mitrovica has a reputation of being a major city for sports teams, and it is still perceived like this. There are clubs for many sports, from handball to football, from basketball to gymnastics. Though our speakers regret that the spirit of sports’ practices has changed, today more about money and image, they still get pride in being part of an amazing adventure linked to their city and their own passion.

Zumra remembers one particular match of basketball against the team of Fushë Kosova/Kosovo Polje because of its “fantastic atmosphere”. A lot of girls from different places and different communities composed the two teams, and it was fascinating to ask everyone where they were from. “No one cared about the others’ nationalities”. Lindita has a very similar important memory, one about the time her team participated in a Yugoslavian tournament, and had the opportunity to play against people from Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, etc. And playing against them was often an opportunity to meet and learn about them. Sports was always for them a way to meet new people, different people, to have a laugh or a serious discussion. It was also an excuse to travel around, to discover other countries. Ajeti is proud to have collaborated with other renown coaches from all around the Balkans, and to have played with Serbs.

This idea was of course confronted to today’s situation, where teams are not mixed anymore, and where politics invaded even the sports fields as someone from the audience mentioned. But “people who really feel like sportspersons should close eyes on politics” as said Zumra. There should be no room for conflict and racism in such universal activities. When Fadil Vokrri died last year, Ajeti told us, people from the whole region came. There are no borders when you admire a player. He wanted nonetheless to stress out that politics infiltrated more the groups of supporters than the players. Athletes mostly do not care about this, and want to live by their passion, which implies having mutual respect with other teams. Teams do not fight, only some supporters do. Zumra stated that in their time people were playing all together, and there were no problems. Her son is now playing handball in a German team, rich with different nationalities. “If it is possible there, it is possible here”.

         Our speakers were framed by two columns full of old photographs provided by the City Museum. Sadly, an observation is unavoidable: there are only men, all playing football. This particular sport and this gender of players already dominated the sports world at the time, as it still does today. This raised the question from the audience, as we had two female players speaking: what was it to be a female player back then? Zumra contended that she never really felt discrimination at first, as there were female and male clubs alike in the different places she played. She started to feel discrimination more recently, as men became more and more prioritized in sports. Lindita told us that the person who made her do sports was her mother. Her family has always been supportive. It made sense to everyone around her that a woman could and should do sports. “I have no barriers” she said, implying that age is also not a limit. As long as you want to play, you can and you should.

A female alpinist from the audience shared her thoughts on this, saying that she also started to feel discrimination in the sports she practices, whereas it makes no logical sense to her. She and our speakers felt that young people are getting further and further from the world of sports, focusing more on trivial and materialistic things. All felt that we need to encourage better physical education, and more active practice of sports for people of all ages. Not just for health, not just for the sake of keeping ourselves busy, but because, as we learned through these stories, sports is an eternal way to meet, discover, exchange, travel, build friendships and understand more about the world. For our three speakers, and for a lot of other people throughout the globe, sports are a way to live wonderful collective adventures. From a weekly match with friends to an Olympic competition, playing sports brings us together, and makes us better persons. Everyone reached the conclusion that we should encourage everyone to start running, climbing, swimming and hitting balls together. They hope that this kind of events can inspire people to follow their path, one that they are proud of.

Written by Jeremy Flauraud

‘Storytelling Caravan II: Mitrovica, city of sports’ was the second event of the project “Mitrovica’s Joint Story”. This project is financed by the European Union, through the project Divided Past-Joint Future with OKC as leading applicant  and organized by GAIA Kosovo. Three monthly events will follow, on different topics exploring our experiences of Mitrovica.


The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article lies entirely with the author(s).


Storytelling Caravan I: Women of Mitrovica

“When we arrived by train, what struck me the most were the lights. Mitrovica was full of lights”

        The past always has much to tell. Its stories are even more striking when change has been so brutal. On Saturday 19th January 2019, three women who lived long and fruitful lives in Mitrovica, three women from very different backgrounds linked by a common love for their city, came in the Diakonie Youth Center to share what they have to say about this town. Around twenty people came to listen to their stories, ones of ordinary lives for an Albanian, a Serbian and a Bosniak woman in Yugoslavian Mitrovica. A history sometimes forgotten, unknown by the youngest, some of whom were present in the audience.


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Impressions of Ismael about Gracanica Summer Workcamp

After our workcamp in Imaginatorium, GAIAs educational center in Gracanica, I feel like a student who has just graduated from school and, looking back, reflects on the things he learnt, the ways he changed and the friends he made throughout those years, though in my case I was only there for little more than a couple of weeks. One of the wonders of life is that the whole of it can be experienced in a seemingly short time, and I can contemplate all things, from birth to death, by going through my memories of these past few days, from our meetings before participants came, during which, like parents who are expecting their first child, we made detailed plans and schedules and worried about all that might have gone wrong, all the way to the end, when the time came to say goodbye and many kids – and grown-up volunteers as well – could not contain their tears. Continue reading “Impressions of Ismael about Gracanica Summer Workcamp”

Doing long term volunteering in Germany (Leotrime from Kosovo)

Volunteering with Friedenskreis Halle e.V. was more than just being abroad and working
in one place of assignment. The whole experience was a learning process. It was a process of growing personally and professionally. This experience has helped me become more independent, more organized, self-confident, it has even changed my approach towards various things. No matter how cliché it may sound, being a volunteer is indeed a life changing experience.

I did my voluntary service in the elementary school Evangelische Grundschule Halle.

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Meeting neighbors: a week in Velika Hoča/Hoçë e Madhe

44497877_507786036362616_4063299139465641984_nFrom 24th until 29th of September 2018 a cultural exchange took place in the village of Velika Hoča/Hoçë e Madhe. Organized by GAIA Kosovo and Draganac Monastery, with the support of World Vision, the exchange gathered 16 participants from different places of Kosovo such as Drenas, Vushtrri, Mitrovica, Skenderaj, Prishtina, Rahovec but also from Albania, Serbia, Austria and France. It was a chance for them to explore cultural heritage sites in Velika Hoča/Hoçë e Madhe, Prizren, Peć/Peja, and to learn how culture, peace and religion interrelate in Kosovo.

Continue reading “Meeting neighbors: a week in Velika Hoča/Hoçë e Madhe”