Female Bosnians feel left out of sports due to a lack of opportunities

Webster alumna Alisa Coralic was the only Bosnian woman to play soccer for the university. Fellow soccer player Emina Catic believes the idea that women should stay at home contributes to fewer Bosnian women being encouraged to play sports.

By Kelly Bowen

Kicking a soccer ball against a concrete wall, Alisa Coralic was looking on the outside in. At the age of 6, Coralic watched her role model Mia Hamm on the T.V. hoping to be on a soccer field like her one day.

For kids in America from ages 6 to 12, almost 72% are participating in a sport. Coralic’s parents were not against her playing sports, but it was not something they encouraged.

Coralic graduated from Mehlville High School in 2014 and from Webster University in 2018. She is the only Bosnian woman that has played soccer for Webster.

Tim Champion has been the athletic director at Mehlville High School, a heavily Bosnian populated school district, for eight years. He said students with Bosnian heritage make up about 20% of the school. Forty percent of the males participate in sports while only 20% of females participate in sports.

“There is not a lot of opportunity for girls to play. Culturally, it is just like, ‘Oh, you’re a girl,’ so they don’t expect you to play or know how to play or be good at it,” Coralic said.

But once Coralic was in middle school, her parents were very supportive of her playing soccer.

“I was lucky to be surrounded by people that supported me, but then you did always see certain men or people not expecting much from you or little comments like, ‘Why is a girl doing that?’ Those comments are there, and I know that there are girls whose families would rather them be home, helping around the house,” Coralic said.

In middle school, Coralic met Emina Catic, another Bosnian girl who played soccer and later went on to play at Lindenwood University. Catic played on a boys’ soccer team at the time. The two girls and Catic’s father later formed a Bosnian girl’s club soccer team.

After a couple years, the team started to fall apart as some players left for bigger club names, like Scott Gallagher and Lou Fusz. The Bosnian girls’ team was never restarted.

Catic believes there are not many female Bosnians in sports because of two reasons: the belief women are supposed to stay at home and the lack of Bosnians knowing the English language. 

Coralic also said there are not many professional female-athlete role models for young girls in Bosnia.

“In the U.S., a lot of our parents don’t know how to speak English and access the bigger clubs. Since they don’t have a Bosnian girl’s option to play sports, we don’t have the resources here. So, it starts off culturally for sure and then goes into not [having] the resources to play and get girls into clubs,” Catic said.

Alisa Coralic throws the ball out to one of her teammates after making a save. Photo contributed by Webster Athletics.

Coralic believes it would be beneficial to get more Bosnian girls involved in sports. Catic also said sports opened up a lot of doors and experiences for her.

“After the war, the country struggled to rebuild a little bit, so just the smallest thing progressing forward like letting women accomplish things they want to accomplish could help a lot,” Coralic said. “I think there are a lot of good athletes that are female that don’t get a chance because their family doesn’t support them and that’s not really fair.”

Leijla Hajderovic is a track and field athlete at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Hajderovic said in America, people do not question her as much on why she is playing sports. In Bosnia, however, she is expected more to help around with things as a female, like house chores.

“I would love to see more [female Bosnians] in sports. You can relate more culture wise with them. It would be nice to have similar experiences, being able to make jokes, or talk to them if they have been to Bosnia as well,” Hajderovic said.

Catic is hopeful that in the future, more girls will be exposed to sports.

“It’s important for Bosnians to step out of what the tradition is and open up to all the other things that are possible, not just the things we are used to,” Catic said.

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