Football for folies
Last weekend I participated in a football tournament. It was an athletic failure but a 'comraderish' succes. I decided to forget the scores, but in the 4 games we played, we managed to score one (1) goals. This one (1) goals was celebrated as a victory, much to the amazement of the onlookers. What it boiled down to was "We sucked. Bigtime". But we had great fun, although my legs still hurt.
Many things at the tournament were the same as with tournaments in Holland- quite a number of players were hungover, we did not have matching outfits, it rained, we lost, talks were about football all day- but ofcourse, there was a different twist to it, like to so many things in BiH. The tournament was organised by the German contingent of EUFOR, the European peacekeeping force in BiH.
Seeing German soldiers walking around here in their uniforms is very strange to me. Times have changed, they are the good guys now, and they are here to protect me (and the rest of BiH). I can not but laugh about the irony of it....
EUFOR, European Union FORce, is the successor of SFOR, the NATO Stabilisation FORce in BiH, which is the successor of IFOR, the NATO Implementation FORce, which is the successor of UNPROFOR, the United Nations PROtection FORce in BiH.
Currently EUFOR has about 7,000 military personnel deployed in BiH, where UNPROFOR had approximately 39,000 soldiers on the ground in BiH and Croatia (which puts the number of peacekeepers/ -enforcers which will be sent to Libanon in an interesting light....).
According to their website (a) their mission, code named ALTHEA is as follows:
The key objectives of ALTHEA are:
- To provide deterrence and continued compliance with the responsibility to fulfil the role specified in Annexes 1A and 2 of the Dayton/Paris Agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH); and
- To contribute to a safe and secure environment in BiH, in line with its mandate, and to achieve core tasks in the OHR’s Mission Implementation Plan and the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP)."
So those men and women are here to secure the peace. And I still have not figured out whether that is really necessary. Their presence always makes me think of this story of a guy who is walking on his hands on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. A policeman comes up to him ans asks him why he does this. The man answers that he is doing it to keep the elephants from entering Manhattan. Surpised by this answer the copper rebuts by saying that there are no elephants in Manhattan . "Duh,", the man says, "that is because I am walking on my hands...". Maybe there is no war because they are here, but maybe they are here because they are here. Be it as it may, there is peace now, so maybe they are doing their job well....
A lot of my Bosnian friends are more than sceptical about the presence of EUFOR, but they also say that if it was not for them, the country would be in a more fragile state than it already is. They are the experts, so i believe them. The political rethoric in the time running up to the elections in October, rethorics that is heard on TV and read in the newspapers, feeds the tought that they might be right. In election time in Holland politicians throw mud at eachother- here old war wounds are opened again, and nationalistic cries are heard over and over again, even by politicians who during the war were quite moderate. Referring to ethnic differences results in votes, and the politicians realise it. The seem not to care too much about what it does nor the country as a whole. The bomb attack on the grave of Izetbegović is still not solved, but voices are heard that it is done as a result of all the political tensions.
Anyway, EUFOR is here. And most of its men seem bored. And organise a football tournament, in which I participate. The organisation is quite professional: there are halftracks to drive the German teams to the pitch, two armoured personnel carriers (APC's)are remodified to work as ambulances (we talk about 'ze lietle tanks', and the driver 'leftenant Grueber'), there is beer and free sausages. If it wasn't for them, there might be violence again, but for sure i would not have had such an enjoyable Saturday the 26th of August....