Bosnia-Herzegovina & Belgium:When politics,football and ethnic division collide


For the third consecutive qualifiers Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgium are playing one against each other in order to qualify for a major football tournament.Their first meeting for the qualifications for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be played in Brussels next month,while their second match in Zenica is scheduled to be in Zenica in October next year.Both countries are entering the qualifieres with the same mission-to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Belgium the clear favorite to win the group and the automatic playoff spot,while Bosnia-Herzegovina is hoping to upset the Red Devils and avoid another disappointment in the playoffs,also the mood in both teams is different,the Red Devils are coming off from a disappointing Euros in France which saw them crashing in the quarterfinals after a defeat against Wales besides having one of the most talented squads ever to appear and they were billed as the dark horse of the Euros,but the opposite happened,while for Bosnia represents it is the probably the final chance with the current generation of players led by Edin Dzeko to make an impact on the World stage since they didn’t made the Euros in France and the qualification playoffs have become a nightmare for them.But it is more than just a football match between Bosnia and Belgium,it is about two European countries which have the most ethnically divided and politically most complicated countries in Europe.Belgium is located in located in Western Europe and it is border with Germany,Luxembourg,France and the Netherlands.Besides that its capital Brussels servers as the headquarters of the EU and NATO,as well as other European institutions,the country is deeply divided between the French-speaking Waloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish with the German community watching from the sidelines how the political conflict between the sides will play out.Belgium as a country came into existence 1830 with the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands in the Belgian Revolution which with the installation of Leopold I as king in July 1831,but the coflict of the Flemish and the Walloons which have roots in late 19th Century have in recent decades intesified on the political level since the Flemish are economical more successful and Flanders is more wealthier than Wallonia where the decline of traditional industries led to poverty and economic depression.That reflects the Jupiler Pro League which is the country’s top football division which is dominated by the teams from Flanders with only two clubs from Wallonia which are Charleroi and Standard Liege,while KAS Eupen represent the German-speaking community.One of the few things which unites the whole country both Walloons and Flemish is the national team-the Red Devils which have one of most talented generations in Europe,but they are short of delivering a huge result.During the Euros in France,in one of the rarest moments,the Red Devils have united the country as one,both Walloons and Flemish cheered on the Red Devils,but the defeat in the quarterfinals against Wales have sent the Red Devils packing home and disappointing the public.On the other side there is Bosnia-Herzegovina which has one of the most complicated political systems in Europe.Born as a federal unit in Communist Yugoslavia,modern Bosnia-Hetzegovina consists of Croats who are Catholic,Bosnian Muslims known as Bosniaks and Serbs who are Orthodox Christians.Currently Bosnia-Herzegovina is still recovering from the scars of the war in the 1990s which left more than 100000 people dead and billions of dollars in damage.Also it is a country which hasd one of the most complicated political systems with a presidency which consists of three members (a Croat,a Serb and a Bosniak),while it is divided between the entity of Republika Srpska which is the Serbian federal entity and the Croat-Bosniak Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina which is further divided into 12 cantons.That ethnic division also reflected into football,the Premier League of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2000 when the First League of Herzeg-Bosnia (Croatian) and the First League of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosniak) merged with clubs from Republika Srpska joined in 2002.During its existence the two most dominant clubs are Zrinjski Mostar which is the Croatian club from Mostar and Zeljeznicar from Sarajevo which also had success during Cummunist Yugoslavia when it was champion of the Yugoslav First League in 1972.While clubs from Republika Srpska with the exception of Borac from Banja Luka and Leotar from Trebinje are the only champions from the Serbian entity.When it comes to the national team Bosnia made only once the World Cup,two years ago in Brazil in which they made an exit in the group stage besides having a very modest draw with only Argentina being a much harder opponent,but the defeat against Nigeria in the second group match has sent them packing with only a victory against Iran in the final group match.Bosnia’s national team known as the Dragons also contains very few Bosnian Serbian and Croatian players since they opt to play for Serbia and Croatia leaving the roster of the national team dominated by Bosniaks,the same it comes to the support,a majority of Bosniaks support the national team with a very few Bosnian Serb or Croatian supporters.Whether is Sarajevo or Brussels,Bosnia-Herzegovina or Belgium,Red Devils or Dragons,the match between the two sides are more than just football,it is politics and the reflection two most ethnically divided countries in Europe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s