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Bosnia and Herzegovina

When football surpasses language 

Jovana Stevanovic during a recent winter training camp in Zenica
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina's U-16 girls' team help deaf team-mate feel welcome
  • Jovana Stevanovic is realising her dream of playing for the national team
  • Federation's women's football coordinator: "Disabilities can't be an obstacle for someone who wants to play football"

Football’s for everyone.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina U-16 girls' team understands that. When Jovana Stevanovic made the squad, she had the skill, talent and the passion for the game, just like the rest of her team-mates. The one thing she didn’t have, though, was the ability to hear them; Stevanovic is deaf.

However, the team and the coaching staff did not consider her disability a hindrance. Instead, they got together and decided to learn sign language to help her adapt and feel more a part of the team.

During a winter training camp at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation’s centre in Zenica, the team and head coach Ilija Lucic came together and organised two sign language lectures with the help of a professor from Sarajevo, who the federation hired to take part in the camp with the team.

“I was really surprised because the other girls really enjoyed the classes,” the federation’s women’s football coordinator Ivana Vlajic told “They told us later that it was a great experience for them and that it was easier for them to communicate with Jovana.”

Stevanovic can hear certain things, for example, if head coach Ilija Lucic blows his whistle. However, outside of the pitch, in the dressing room, at meals and on road trips, she would feel isolated if it weren’t for the efforts of the team.

“I was really surprised, too, because after two classes, they (her team-mates) were able to communicate with Jovana in sign language using full sentences, not just one word here or there," Vlajic said. "They really started to talk after two classes.”

“Our idea with this generation is to continue with these classes in every camp, friendly matches, and also qualification tournaments."

Stevanovic, who plays as a forward, got called up to the U-16 national team after impressing at club level with FK Radnik Bljeljina. She was the second top scorer in the Premier Women’s U-17 league, tallying an impressive 25 goals.

“My opinion is that disabilities can’t be an obstacle for someone who wants to play football,” Vlajic said. “Jovana is a good footballer and we will try and help her stay in the national team longer.”

"It's great that this lecture was held,” Stevanovic said, speaking with the federation’s official website. “My companions from the team have learned various things and tried to adapt to me.”

She has always dreamt of playing for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team and now her team-mates are helping her take another step towards that dream.

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