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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Crossing the borders - promoting togetherness through sports and adult education

by Gina Ebner
Language: EN
Document available also in: EL CS PL HR HU FR ET

/en/file/social-inclusion-through-sportsSocial inclusion through sports

Social inclusion through sports


Aleksa Jovanović and Maja Maksimović shared with EPALE how sports and adult education can be used to combat xenophobia.


How do we as adult educators envision effective peace education in a post-conflict region such as the Western Balkans – a region that was once dominated by nationalism, war and hostility? Due to ineffective politics of memory and ideologically shaped narratives about war in Yugoslavia, young adults are still facing the burden of nationalism and hatred. States use the past as a tool to create new post-communist nations based on somewhat imaginary differences and nationalisations of memories that still capture public discourse and spaces. So, what would the role of non-formal education be and how can we create new traces and write new messages of peace and togetherness?

Bridging the gap is the act of making a connection where there is a great difference. In the context of running, Bridge the Gap is a movement that connects various running crews all over the world. Many of the modern movements in the field of sport and recreation are now closer to the ‘social change’ aspiration as they are open about their social criticism and political messages. The Bridge the Gap movement illustrates the comprehensive character of involvement and its role in the urban areas:

‘The various crews are not running groups, but rather crews of likeminded and creative souls that are connected to the pulse of their home city. Moreover, they thrive on unpredictable routes and spontaneity, running in the evenings and mornings. Exploring new neighborhoods, no path is off course, no obstacle unsurmountable’.

A good example of the character of this movement is the 442 Crew, which is a running crew founded in 2015 by Zagreb Runners (ZR) and Belgrade Urban Running Team (BURT). Not so long ago the Western Balkans were struck by war, which created a feud between Croats and Serbs, and so xenophobia and nationalism thrive in the post war discourse. The main goals of the 442 Crew is to offer an alternative and to overcome the dividing nationalism – Yugonostalgia, to fight prejudices and to spread antiwar values, or as one of the founders, Domi, put it: ‘to make us better people within a better community’. How do they do that?

They have two approaches – ‘internal’ and ‘external’. The internal approach includes the members of BURT and ZR simply talking and visiting Zagreb/Belgrade. Traveling plays a big role as people do not often travel between Croatia and Serbia. Many people with prejudice haven’t been in contact with people from the other country, and marathon races are a good reason to travel. The external approach is through various projects, the most important of which is 442 Relay. In November 2016, 16 runners (eight from Belgrade and eight from Zagreb) did a relay run from Belgrade to Zagreb, always running in pairs (one from Zagreb and one from Belgrade), completing 442 km (symbolic distance between Zagreb and Belgrade) in 45 hours. The whole venture was document by VICE production and it was broadcast in Serbia, Greece and Spain.

In September 2015, the border between Serbia and Croatia was closed for vehicles for a few days due to the migrant crisis, and the runners from BURT and ZR crossed their borders on foot to go meet for a shakeout run on neutral territory. By symbolically crushing borders, they sent a message of tolerance, peace and friendship. Also, the external approach involves promoting the team’s activities in races and events all over the world. Through these actions the 442 Crew aims to offer a new perspective on how we can accept each other. Instead of pointing out differences and dwelling on our past, we can try to find similarities, and find a common path forward.

Aleksa Jovanović is a co-founder and co-captain of Belgrade Urban Running Team and 442 Crew. He is a PhD student at the Department for Pedagogy and Andragogy, at the University of Belgrade and an assistant editor of the adult education journal ‘Andragogical studies’. Aleksa is also a constructivist psychotherapist under supervision.


Maja Maksimovic (1983) is assistant professor at the Department for Pedagogy and Andragogy at the University of Belgrade and a researcher at the Institute for Pedagogy and Andragogy. Maja has a diploma in andragogy, obtained in Belgrade, Serbia, MA in Counselling Studies obtained at the University of Nottingham, UK, and PhD in Andragogy from the University of Belgrade. She is a deputy editor of the adult education journal ‘Andragogical studies’ and the author of numerous publications. Beside her experience in teaching and writing, her interests are related to performance art and theatre. She is an executive board member of European Association for the Education of Adults since 2014.

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  • Sebastian Cieślak's picture
    Działania biegowe, o których pisze Aleksa są świetnym przykładem tego jak wspólna pasja może pokonywać uprzedzenia i łamać stereotypy. Niestety najpierw przekonuję się do nich, Ci którzy już tak naprawdę są przekonani i nie lubią podziałów. Z tymi, dla którym podziały na "my" i "oni" są ważniejsze, jest trudniej, ale ... kropla drąży skałę. Wiemy, że najłatwiej przekonać się do osób, do których jesteśmy uprzedzeni kiedy ich lepiej poznamy. Sport świetnie się nadaje jako "narzędzie", dzięki któremu można promować wspólnotowość.