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The Golden Boys

How Bosnia and Herzegovina's sitting volleyball team overcame war injuries to win gold at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2013 14:40

Filmmaker: Ensar Altay

At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, the Bosnia and Herzegovina men's sitting volleyball team won the silver medal. Four years later at the London Paralympics, their ambition was to go further.

The players had to overcome many personal challenges, as coach Mirza Hrustemovic explains: "I've played sitting volleyball for 30 years. I'm proud of what I've done so far. I was born in 1959, when I was two years old I was given a vaccination against an illness. But the medicine had a side effect. I lost the funtion in my left leg. My everyday life was challenged; I had to fight through it. It taught me how to overcome what came later in life."

In the 1980's, there was a disabled athletes association in Yugoslavia, called the Sport and Recreation Association. Through this association, Hrustemovic and his friends had the opportunity to try many different sports.

"We weren't afraid of anything and we never saw ourselves as disabled. In 1982, my friend who used to play at the Hrabri Athletics Club in Croatia introduced me to sitting volleyball, I immediately fell in love with the game," says Hrustemovic.

Coach Hrustemovic and his old teammate Zoran Stojanovic started the first club, the Uporni Sitting Volleyball Club.

Hrustemovic was asked to join the national team in 1986, and their club from Sarajevo were champions of Yugoslavia three times in a row.

But then 1992 came and the Bosnian war began. Many of the team's players were injured during the conflict.

"It was difficult living through the war. The enemy thought we couldn’t defend our country because we were un prepared. But we used our brains to fight back. Bosnians are quiet people, but they can endure a lot. And when they put their mind to something, nothing can stop them. This war showed the world that .... The war ended and life went back to normal. To get over the war, we trained all the time. That gave us positive energy .... Our country knows that we, the kids of war, don’t lose. But sometimes we forget to check the score," Hrustemovic says.

The film follows the men's sitting volleyball team from Bosnia and Herzegovina as they overcome war injuries and disabilities to train for the 2012 London Paralympics. 

This episode of Al Jazeera World can be seen from Tuesday, March 5, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2000; Wednesday: 1200; Thursday: 0100; Friday: 0600; Saturday: 2000; Sunday: 1200; Monday: 0100; Tuesday: 0600.

Click here for more Al Jazeera World.

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