Flares and fireworks lit up the Sarajevo sky as thousands of inhabitants flocked to the city’s streets to celebrate deep into the early hours of Oct. 16 morning in recognition of Bosnia’s successful World Cup campaign.
The scenes of utter joy provided a stark contrast to the brutal 1992-95 siege of the Bosnian capital, which produced some of the most harrowing images of a conflict that claimed the lives of around 100,000 people in a former Yugoslav republic that remains hostage to nationalist and political interests.
Finally it was an opportunity to release an outpouring of elation for Bosnians, who reached their first top football tournament as an independent nation. Donning national team shirts and wrapped in flags and scarves, Sarajevo inhabitants and those who poured into the city from other cities celebrated the historic success as a seemingly endless motorcade blocked streets once littered with victims of snipers and mortar shells.
“This is a lesson to everyone in Bosnia what can be achieved with hard work, persistence and talent,” Austrian diplomat and High Representative of Bosnia Valentin Inzko told FACE TV.
Nearly two decades after the conflict, Bosnia remains a dysfunctional country marred by ethnic divisions, political instability and economic hardship, with the bickering of rival Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders slowing down its progress towards the European Union. A U.S.-brokered peace deal silenced the guns but created a system of ethnic power-sharing so unwieldy that the process of governing often grinds to a halt, stifling recovery and reform in a country where 28 percent of the population are unemployed.
The prospect of playing in the World Cup has put aside worries about delayed wages and low pensions, and instilled hope that politicians can follow in the footsteps of the national football team, a rare beacon of light and unity.
“This victory means everything to me,” 51-year old physician Sanja Mandic said Reuters. “I love them so much, they are the only bright thing in our lives and a glimmer of hope in these terrible times.” /HurriyetDailynews/