Sports courts – a place that connects locals and migrants

14 Sep 2016

 The renovated school-ground sports courts in Adasevci

Adasevci is a small village in the North-West Serbia, bordering Croatia, which belongs to the municipality of Sid. Prior to 2015, this village lived like many others – in the small, farming community practically all citizens knew one another, went to the same Cultural Center, received medical care in the same local health center. Its 335 children got their primary education in the town’s school and played on the schoolyard’s run-down sports courts.

The town got wider publicity when one of its inhabitants, Branislav Ivanovic, emerged from the anonymity – taking his hometown along with him – by becoming the captain of the national football team and of London’s Chelsea Football Club.

Still it wasn’t Mr. Ivanovic but the town’s geographical position that placed it in the national, and even international spotlight. Since the onset of the migration crisis in September 2015, 700,000 migrants and refugees have transited though Sid on their way to their final destinations. Such influx of migrants has affected municipal assets and quality of services provided by competent service providers. Due to generous acceptance and hospitality of people of Adasevci, this municipality was one of the examples of best practices in efficient admission and humane treatment of people in need. Up to 700 migrants used to be accommodated in Adasevci One-Stop Center.

UNDP Serbia and the Japanese Government recognized the necessity of providing conditions for social cohesion and revitalization of public spaces that all citizens and migrants use. As part of the project entitled “Strengthening Local Resilience in Serbia: Mitigating the Impact of the Migration Crisis” in June 2016, in 20 days, with 50.000 USD contribution by the Japanese government, UNDP renovated the meeting place of different generations – the school-ground sports courts. This modern sports venue is now used by 2020 citizens of Adasevci, 700 migrants and 39,000 citizens of Sid municipality, and by local basketball and futsal clubs.

This venue hosted the traditional annual futsal tournament in Adasevci, which was opened this year by Serbia and Chelsea F.C captain Branislav Ivanovic, originating from this area, who thus recognized the importance of this undertaking for enhancing opportunities for intercultural change, promotion of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. One of the matches in the tournament was played between the recreational futsal club from Adasevci and a team made-up of Syrian refugees, ending in a 5:5 tie. This footballing first was broadcast on the national TV, showcasing to other border communities in the South and North of Serbia how sports and a spirit of partnership have the power of bringing people together and providing development solutions to humanitarian challenges.

The success of the project is also confirmed by the request of the Municipality of Sid to implement more such initiatives.    

Footage of the futsal match between futsal club from Adasevci and a team made-up of Syrian refugees

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