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Mission Possible

Azra Numanović’s life-mission is it to change the perception of women in traditional male domains in Bosnia. How? Through football.

Elegant casual jacket, black sneakers and a sporty handshake: Even when Azra Numanović is out for a drink she looks like she is ready any time to get on the pitch to get things done. It is Saturday night at the bar of the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo and everybody is having a good time. The small bar is crowded with people, full with smoke and the waitress is busy pouring beer after beer. Azra is chating with friends a little bit offside the main action and taking a look at the scene every once in a while. It seems like the mind of the 27-year-old football player is just taking a small break. A few moments of recreation from her normal life.

But her mind does not seem to totally let go of her daily business: What do I need to get done before the next match? How do I prepare for the upcoming UEFA meeting? How will we organize the next Champion’s League game? And it would not surprise if she would get a phone call and leave immediately because her team and club need her. Even at 11 pm on a Saturday night.

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Azra Numanović is one of Bosnia’s most sucessful football players and the Secretary General of her club SFK 2000 Sarajevo. But more importantly she is convinced that football and her work can change the perception of gender roles in Bosnia’s society. „To me it is not just anymore about playing football and helping my club to be sucessful. I consider my work as my life-mission to change the perception of women in what is considered to be traditional male domains,“ she says. An ambitious path in a society that has just come out of war and is still characterised by a machismo attitude.

Azra Numanovic as a spokesperson on and off the football ground Spokesperson on and off the pitch

Azra’s own path towards her mission was not straight forward either. When she was two years old she left Bosnia for Germany because of the war. During the time she spent in Nuremberg with her parents between 1992 and 1996 her sister Esma and her passion for football were born. Once back home she continued to play and joined SFK Sarajevo in 2004. Besides playing football Azra finished her degree in German studies and Esma studies political science and is a singer in a band.

Watching the two sisters interact offers an insight into the background of the obviousness with which Azra pursues her mission. Both laugh a lot, are self-confident about their ambitions but aware that obstacles will pave their way. In their mid-twenties, both still share a room in their parents’ apartment. It is a strong bond that encourages the two sisters to believe in what they have set out for themselves to achieve.

Azra Numanovic at a UEFA Champions League game with her club SFK Sarajevo 2000 “It is possible to change European football from Bosnia”

In her career as a football player Azra has already gone a long way. Since 2002 her club SFK Sarajevo has won the national championship 15 times in a row. In 2011 Azra also played her first game for Bosnia’s national team. Since then she has shifted her focus towards the administrative part of the game, became secretary general of the club in 2014 and represented Sarajevo at the UEFA. An experience that gave her further motivation to work for her goal. „Women’s football is definitely getting more attention. And I have realized that it is possible to change European football even when you are from Bosnia.“

SFK 2000 Sarajevo play most of their home games at stadium Otoka

The club: SFK 2000 Sarajevo
Founded in 2000 and become part of the treaditional male football club FK Sarajevo in 2015 based on a long-term cooperation deal. Is by far the most successful women’s football club in Bosnia with 15 championship and 14 cup titles. Was nomonated for “Bosnian Team of the Year” in all sports categories (male and female) in the country in 2016. Biggest international success: Qualification for the best 32 teams of UEFA women’s Champions League in 2016/17. Lost to the Russian club WFC Rossiyanka due to a last-minute goal 1:2.

The city: Sarajevo
During the 1980s the city known for its religious and cultural diversity experienced a decade filled with exciting sporting events, flourishing art scenes and a vibrant urban life. But the war brought this development to an abrupt end only a few years later. During the siege of the city, 11,541 people lost their lives, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded. Today, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegowina is slowly recovering and has a population of about 275,000.

The country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
The country declared independence from Yugoslavia on March 3, 1992. The following war killed more than 100,000 people and was ended with the Dayton agreement on December 14, 1995. Since then economic and political progress has been slow. Since the end of the war approximately 150,000 young Bosnians have left the country, and around 10,000 young people still leave the country each year.

In 2016 the unemployment rate was about 25 percent. Youth unemployment was even higher than 65 percent. Bosnia has a population of approximately 3,5 million people with an average salary of around 400 Euro. The political system of the country, which has been based on ethnic identity since the war, is considered to be one of the world’s most complicated systems of government.


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