February 20, 2014

I'm supporting Bosnia in Brazil – and it's not just for their football

Posted in Euro · 40 comments ·

It’s not every day I can open the column from such an exotic location as Sarajevo. I am sitting in a small cafe opposite the very bridge where Gavrilo Princip, the young Serb radical, assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, triggering a sequence of events leading to World War I.

This year is the hundredth anniversary of that war which involved more Irish soldiers than any war before or since. Over 80,000 Irish soldiers were killed and many thousands more were injured.

Here on this tiny bridge, the Latin Bridge, is where it all started.

But yet it could all have been so different.

The archduke had actually survived an assassination attempt earlier in the day when some of Princip’s cohorts had thrown a bomb at the imperial cortege which detonated but didn’t harm Franz Ferdinand.

Princip thought his chance has gone. Disappointed and hungry (as it was after lunch and he had been up early) he went for a sandwich at the cafe opposite the Latin Bridge, the Moritz Schiller cafe.

Unbeknownst to him, Franz Ferdinand told his driver to restart the cavalcade when the dust had settled but the Viennese driver didn’t know Sarajevo well and went up a one-way street.

In the confusion, the cortege got stuck between the bridge and a narrow street. Princip was sitting in the window of the cafe on a baking hot June afternoon, munching on his sandwich ruing his missed opportunity.

He couldn’t believe his luck as he looked out the window. There was his prey, five feet away from him, stuck in traffic. He calmly put down his sandwich, walked over from the terrace and shot the archduke.

Imagine that Princip had decided to go into another cafe? There would have been no sandwich and without the sandwich, there would have been no shooting and without the shooting, could 50,000 southern Irish soldiers and 36,000 Northern Irish soldiers been saved?

We don’t know. But the “what if” approach to history is always intriguing.

We are regularly taught that the war came almost out of nowhere.

However, that version doesn’t really tell the full story. The Serbs – driven by their recurring dream of a Greater Serbia – had been goading the Austrians for some time. I have just finished a wonderful book on the era, ‘The Sleepwalkers’ by Christopher Clarke, which documents the rise of extreme Serb nationalists who operated almost on licence from Belgrade.

Serbia calculated that it could coax the Austrians into another “limited” Balkan War. It proved to be a fatal gamble. Once the Germans decided to give the Austrians a “blank cheque” in terms of supporting whatever action Austria took in retaliation, the dominos were set to fall.

And so shots in Sarajevo, not five metres from where I am sitting now, led my relations in 1914 to board a ship from Dublin to fight in the muck and the filth of Flanders.

Sarajevo has remained a tinder box for decades. It erupted again in 1992, as Yugoslavia disintegrated. Once again, Serb nationalists took up arms, this time against a largely unarmed Muslim population, following a democratic vote for Bosnian independence from Yugoslavia in 1992.

The horrific memories of the last war are never far away, from the bullet holes still in the buildings, to the harrowing memorial to the 1,700 children murdered in the siege of Sarajevo. The scars of the 1992-1995 war and the attempted genocide of the Muslim people of Bosnia are everywhere.

Like many emerging post-socialist European states, today Bosnia also suffers from very high levels of youth unemployment, income is falling and the political class is widely seen as siphoning off the goodies for themselves.

As a result of the war, everything is still seen through the ethnic prism. My friends here are a hotch- potch of everything: half-Serb, half- Muslim, with a Croat grandmother is not untypical. But my friends are the product of Yugoslavia – and those days are long gone.

However, the one bright shining star this year for Bosnia is its ethnically mixed and very brilliant football team who have qualified for the World Cup and will take their place amongst the greats in Brazil this June. For those of us who like the beautiful game, there was no better exponent of it in Europe than the brilliant Yugoslav teams of the 1980s and early 1990s. They were known as “the Brazilians of Europe”. Had they not been ejected from the 1992 European Championship, most people believe they would have won the competition in a canter.

Under the eye of the great former Yugoslav player Safet Susic, the Bosnian team play this exciting attacking football which is based on the notion that “if you score four, we will score five”. It is a joy to watch, but is a rollercoaster for the fans because the brilliant attacking in front of goal can be negated by an attitude to defence which could be described as “leaky” at best.

The football team has unified the country and is wholeheartedly supported by Muslims in Sarajevo, Croats in Mostar and Serbs in Banja Luka.

During the break-up of Yugoslavia, political tensions were often played out on the football pitch as fans (and players) of Dynamo Zagreb ran running battles with fans of Red Star Belgrade. It is lovely to see a team do the opposite.

We know in Ireland what impact a successful national team can have on the psyche. Imagine what a successful unified Bosnian team can do.

As a neutral in the World Cup, I for one will be supporting Bosnia, not only because they play the beautiful game but because of what it would symbolise for Zvjezdan Misimovic (an ethnic Serb and Bosnia’s most capped player) to put Man City’s Edin Dzeko (an ethnic Muslim and Bosnia’s record goal scorer) through to score in the opening game of the Brazil World Cup.

David McWilliams writes daily on international economics and finance at www.globalmacro360.com

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    • Griff

      The ripple effect is fascinating:
      Isn’t it?

    • ljubisa


      Gavrilo Princip was a member of “Mlada Bosna” movement. The aim was create to Yougoslavia not greater Serbia,and the members were Serbs, Croats and Moslims. Members among the others were prominent intelectuals as Ivo Andric Nobel prize winner for literature and famous Croatian poet Tin Ujevic. The article has good intentions but it is full of “propaganda” details that comes from Austrian-Hungarian empire.

      Kind regards,

      • amir071

        Gavrilo Princip and ‘Mlada Bosna’ were a part of Serb terrorist organization ”Unification or Death” commonly referred to as Black Hand whose aim was exactly that ”unification of all Serb lands”, a claim that aggresses upon not only Bosnia but Croatia too, claiming them as ‘ancient Serb lands’. Much before Ivo Andri? ever got his Nobel Prize he was the ambassador of the Serb collaborationist government to Adolf Hitler in Berlin and a signatory of the Tripartite Pact. Apart from being a forger of historical facts and an all round nihilistic personality.

  1. Adelaide

    Can anyone explain why the amount of comments here has fallen off a cliff recently? The last article generated only 20 comments. Is it Bonbon? Curious.

    • baffled

      Hi Adelaide,

      Why did you choose Bonbon from all the contributor’s here?

      Bring Bonbon back pronto….he is clearly friekishly smart, but people here don’t like being challenged

    • michaelcoughlan

      I don’t think it’s Bonbon. I stayed away from this article and the last one because last time it was a catholic protestant focus and this time its a christian Muslim one.

      If he wants to blend economics with religion Id love him to do a piece on Muslim interest free loans complying with sharia law or the Jewish rule whereby debtors are released from their debts every 7th year I think? I know next to nothing about the Muslim or Jewish religions but the finance aspect i would find fascinating.

      As for bonbon it would be interesting if he did come back to see how he would warp the article into splitting the banks. I hope he doesn’t because he added nothing except ignorence, psychosis, arrogance, falseness, pompusness, insult etc despite the fact that he was smart and well informed.

      • And in that he was a bit like any unfettered genius in that we couldn’t understand him (or maybe her). But tough to get on with, or maybe perhaps a tad autistic, the supreme genius of all.
        I’ve had something like 5 or 6 years contributing here now and they have come and gone. The main ones that went still watch on the side. There are many reasons for that. Looking at the farce to do with the whistleblower controversy, at least here we can openly discuss economic issues: ie money and how we will fill the fridge.We won’t be sacked for doing the job that we were asked to do in the first place.
        David has a classical education, has a massive pedigree from a young age in all things financial yet brings that knowledge to the wider audience.
        He gets a bit of stick for that and I’d say the regular posters now know that without him, the RTE/Pravda news wouldn’t be much of a substitute.And before anyone gets stuck into me, I’m quite right of centre, a believer in the State and its apparatus and for that matter, quite a-political when it comes down to what is best for Ireland.

        • baffled

          speak for yourself…maybe you couldn’t understand him/her Furrylugs but me and my friends all read chapters 4 & 5 ‘so u wish to learn all about economics’

          did u?

          if u had done so also u wouldunderstand that ‘ i.e. money ‘ isn’t what economics is about !?! nothingcould be further from the truth

          baffled too by ur stupid autistic comment

    • StephenKenny

      It is quiet, but partly it’s to do with this comments system not always working. I tried to write a couple of comments on the last, and they didn’t save.

    • StephenKenny

      Partly, it’s also because some of us can no longer post (if this is visible, it’s the first in a couple of weeks that’s got through).

  2. jaysus

    ‘Southern’ Irish?? As a Dún na nGall man Im sick of this geographic idiocy of being called a southerner. Also the concept is solely a British one alone and any Irish man or woman should know better then to use it.

    Also the concept was unknown at the time of ww1. Very poor David.

  3. Me too. Be thinking about who to follow ever since we were knocked out (midway through group stages) Bosnia were the outstanding candidate in an Irish “underdog’, “punch above your weight” kind of way. You’ve convinced me further.
    Come on Bosnia.

  4. Personally I always watch out for the debutants in the World Cup tournament every four years.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina are the only debutants this year (unfortunately) so they will definitely have my support.


    For me the fall off in comments was inevitable after the “housekeeping” entry of a couple of weeks ago. Told you then the blog would be empty!
    As for another football and sports analogy based article. BORING!!!
    A good article on how your money has been wasted in the latest “bugging” debacle would have been more in line or how about an audit and report on enterprise Ireland and if they are doing anything valuable with the huge budget, and just how many companies have produced any profits?
    Id like to know about that one.
    Or if you want to know where the next big slice of HSE funding is going, look no further than obesity, you will pay for stomach stapling and people who wish to live as a uncle instead of an aunt or a sister instead of your brother, and who will demand that you fund there sex changes.
    You want to write about muslims? H


    continued…………How about when you are not allowed to have a
    Christmas play and will be forced to observe Ramadan in your schools.
    Open your eyes, stop watching boring football and look at where you country is headed, its not too late, yet.

    • amir071

      What the hell are you talking about? Cure that paranoia dude, come to Sarajevo and have some chewapchichi, we’ll get that fear and hate out of you :)


    …..their sex changes,,,,,,,

  8. Lord Jimbo

    49,500 Irishmen were killed in WWI (not 80,000).

    206,000 are recorded as having joined up, in large part serving in the 10th 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions.

    A website was recently created by the Irish government listing the names of the fallen: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/records-of-49-000-irish-wwi-dead-in-new-digital-archive-1.1651010

  9. May I Beg Steal & Borrow Your Time

    There is a very very serious event arriving in April .We saw what happened from my predictions on Dec 9th on this site.

    What has yet to arrive is extremely rare and and has only occurred four times in past 2000 years .

    So please NOTE Now.

    Beginning around the 8th April the surge of the next Moon Wobble ascends and peaks on the 15 th April .

    What is rare about this date ( 15th) is :

    It is also a Full Moon ; and more importantly

    It falls on the Feast of the PASSOVER ( Jewish Feast Day ) ; and

    The next Moon Wobble in Oct14 also falls on the Feast of the Tabernacle

    There are also two Moon Wobble in 2015 falling on those same feast days too .

    All this means is that we are entering The Blood Moons .

    Christ died on the peak of a Moon Wobble on a Blood Moon .The Spanish Jews were excommunicated from Spain and resulted in the serious decline in the national economy .

    So what will happen ? How will this effect you & I and the State ?

    I won’t tell you now but I will give you clues :

    Watch Shatter in Dáil ; and

    Watch ECJ legal ruling on the German Courts ; and

    This year is the anniversary of WW1 and WW11 .

    A Jewish context will fill the void for the duration of the Blood Moons .

    Now read the above main article again.

  10. Joe R

    David McW,

    I am not sure the good fortune of Princip or the misfortune of Franz Ferdinand, whichever way you look at it, had so much of a bareing on events as is made out.

    Tensions were building up before 1914 as all sides saw themselves as the only righteous civilized party in the period leading up to WW1. Add a lot of nasty new weaponry and huge military industrial complexes to that and you had what turned out to be an awful lot of trouble.

    I think WW1 was even termed by both sides as the “Great War For Civilization”. That is propaganda for you, if you compare it to what unfolded in reality, yet more pointless human deaths, en mass.

    If a spark such as the assassination of Franz had not occurred then another would have been seized upon I think, or if need be one would have been created. I feel reasonably sure of that. War was at that time, more or less, inevitable.

    If you look back in history you will find the French and the Germans on the opposite side of very major ding dong in Central Europe since 1600, Many other participants were involved involved too, usually allied along religious lines. Or sometimes for pure political expediency. Many jumped sides at different points. But you will never, never find the French and the Germans on the same side versus everybody else.

    But now they do agree and aren’t lining up to knock each others heads in and instead we have in the name of peace and brotherly love, the EU, the ECB and that crime against humanity referred to as the Eurovision.

    Maybe a more relevant article topic, for a purported Economist that is, to write while sitting near a bridge in Saravejo would be about how a lucky shot from the assassin Princip’s revolver lead, eventually, to the advent of Eurobonds in the 21st century?

    What do you think?

  11. cooldude

    One interesting aspect of WW1 was how long it went on for and the amount of suffering and death it caused not just to Irish people but even more so to all Euro countries and even the Aussies suffered terribly. The main reason for this is that all the participants abandoned the classical gold standard as soon as the war started and simply started to print massive amounts of unbacked paper to fund their war machines. It is no coincidence that the last century was both the century of central banking and the century of massive wars. If the participants in WW1 had stayed on the classical gold standard it would have ended in less than a year as all the main protagonists would have been broke and would have had to settle a peace treaty. This is one of the great evils of central banking in that it allows politicians to fund ludicrous plans such as massive wars. Get rid of central banks and let people decide what they want to use as money and this age of never ending war will end quite quickly. Central banks and the military industrial complex are an evil axis who depend on each other.

  12. Somewhere Only We Know ( song ) – from Limerick Panto 2014

    Emma O’Driscoll and Sarah ALLEN


  13. joe hack

    Where have all the people that wanted censorship imposed gone – is there no one to hate anymore.
    It’ Putin’s fault that me milk went sour – what will the anti democracy Ukrainians do now Viktor F. Yanukovych is gone.

    Censorship is always wrong – always was and always will be – it stifles debate and that is evident here

  14. Tull McAdoo

    I remember visiting Trieste in Italy some years back and was surprised by the architecture of the place. It wasn’t what I was expecting as it was all very “grand” to say the least. Someone told me later that the Austrians were responsible for the great building programme as Trieste was to be their port onto the Mediterranean, but as a result of the war, that development fell apart…..it never ceases to amaze me how resources can be found to develop infrastructure when its in the strategic interest of some well healed decision makers….

    Ireland seems to be suffering the same fate as Trieste at the moment, with infrastructure developed by certain interests lying around under utilised, to put it mildly…Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport, Docklands,empty Industrial units all over the place, etc. etc.

    Unlike Austria, Ireland has loads of ports, Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, but, Ireland seems to lack the level of appreciation for ports that our European lederhosen, thigh slapping colleagues in Vienna seem to have.

    Maybe we should take a leaf out of Minister for the Enviornment “Dr” Phil Hogans handbook and declare a state of emergency around Irelands infrastructure, (for those on the forum who were to preoccupied with BonBon’s dissappearance into the great “glass steagall in the sky”, Big Phil declared a state of emergency in Kilkenny last week during the storms, even though the bollox was being battered out of Cork and Kerry and the south coast. This development led some cynics (not me) to suggest that Phil was looking after his own constituency of Carlow/ Kilkenny in the best traditions of gombeenism)

    On that note, with a message from all of my new friends from Ireland who have settled here in Perth in recent times, to Phil and his fellow gombeens, “there is a storm in my heart, and I ain’t missing you at all”…..take it away John Waite and Goodnight Ireland, Sleep Well.


  15. amir071

    Yugoslavia was not a fairy-tale land Yugo-nostalgics today portray it to have had been and it’s ‘Bosniaks’, not ‘Muslims’, otherwise a brilliant text, thank you David. Greetings from Sarajevo.

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