In the town where sports play an important role, one handball club wants to make sure that every child has an opportunity to train and connect with other children.
A handball goalkeeper must be skilful, cautious and with arms constantly spread apart, ready to defend an opposite team’s attack, explains a twelve-year-old Andrija Ilić who has been training with Bijeljina handball team for ten months already.
This pupil with excellent grades in the primary school Vuk Karadžić, got interested in handball because it is fast and dynamic sport and says that he gets an “adrenalin boost” every time he defends an attack, after which he feels joy of making success for his team.
“This sport is indeed team sports and not individual. First of all, it requires a team, companionship and unity, to become a winner in this sport, because one player alone cannot make a difference in a game,” he says. “I am so into team sports.”
His teammate, an eleven-year-old Stefan Mićić started training seven months ago and one can see his progress. He started from scratch – learning how to catch a ball and how to throw a ball – and nowadays he can already be proud that his team won one game in Zvornik against a team made of boys who are older than his teammates.
“I feel proud when I play in the team. We always feel happy after the game,” says this pupil of the primary school Jovan Dučić and adds that he plans to stay in handball for long although he would like to be a veterinarian when he grows up.
Brothers, a fourteen-year-old Sanel and a thirteen-year-old Dejan Beganović, pupils of the primary school Knez Ivo od Semberije, participated in trainings and handball tournament last year with the handball club Bijeljina. Although they and their sister have been training football for a couple of years now, they responded to the call from the school to try playing handball. They add that they also love mathematics but they plan to do sports.
Sports is very important for children’s health and their development, says a former professional handball player and current president of the handball club Bijeljina, Bogdan Rankić.
“It has been scientifically proved that handball is a sport that develops organism the most, it requires speed, strength, agility, explosiveness and elasticity and one has to meet all those expectations,” he says and adds that trainings, competitions and team spirit are additionally enriching children.
„Children have an opportunity to meet others. Those children who play in our club, who go to all tournaments are definitely richer than those children who just go to school and train no sports“.
After a long successful handball career, in 2012 Rankić became the manager of the sports club that has been attracting an increasing number of primary school children. There is around a hundred of children training on a regular basis.
RK Bijeljina regularly promote handball in schools, their coaches organise socialising and trainings with children in schools and some of those children later join the club.
„Our goal is to have health children. They do not necessarily have to be top-notch athletes, but is they spend years in this club or volleyball or any other club, they will surely be better students, and better employees in future, they will be better in economy and in family and definitely they will be healthier,“, says Rankić.
From July to October 2020, handball club Bijeljina targeted its activities on children from socially vulnerable families through organising trainings and tournaments, connecting them with other children and giving them an opportunity to learn everything that this sport has to offer. These trainings were financially supported by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway through the Project EMBRACE (Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment), which supports social inclusion and social services to vulnerable categories in Bosnia and Herzegovina, implemented by the United Nations development Programme.
„Those were mainly children whose both parents were unemployed and were going through a financial crisis. Those are children who are deprived of many things in their lives and even these trainings, but we managed to encourage them through handball, by showing them that they are accepted, and that the society takes care of them, that the club takes care of them,” adds Rankić. „Games and the adrenalin during the games is the essence of the importance of sports. We created a nice atmosphere, both parents and children are glad to have something nice“.
Fifty children attended the cycles of handball trainings and competitions supported within this project, 5 of them were Roma boys from Bijeljina. Some of them continued training in the club. The importance of sports in Bijeljina is confirmed by the fact that it is one of the European towns of sports in 2020 according to ACES Europe, the Association from Brussels, which cooperates with the European Commission and works on the promotion of sports.
Just like Andrija and Stefan, when he was little Bogdan Rankić first trained football as the most popular sport in Bijeljina, but as soon as tried handball he got into it and never stopped playing.
As mainly agricultural and trade town with number of residents tripled in the past three decades, promotion of sports requires a huge effort. Rankić adds that sports are insufficiently supported in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that there are no development strategies in this field.
Nevertheless, Andrija and Stefan are looking forward to new training, new tournaments and victories. They say that handball is easy to learn and that they exchange knowledge and help each other when training.
„We make no difference between better and worse players, between new players and those who train for five years and alike,“ says Andrija. „I will continue training handball, hopefully for the rest of my life. I like this sport, I set up some goals for myself and I strive to reach them.“