Thousands celebrate Bosnia's moment of footballing history

Bosnia-Herzegovina reached their first ever major finals on Tuesday as a 1-0 win over Lithuania saw them confirm their place at next year's World Cup.

Updated: October 16, 2013 10:54 IST
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Sarajevo: Thousands of people took to the streets on Tuesday to celebrate Bosnia qualifying for their first ever major football finals as a 1-0 win over Lithuania saw them confirm their place at the 2014 World Cup.

"I have never felt better, thank you Dragons, we finally have a reason to celebrate," delighted Merim Serdarevic told AFP.

Two large TV screens were set up in the main Sarajevo square for thousands of fans to watch the match live.

Colourful fireworks lit the skies over Sarajevo as the crowd shouted "Zmajevi (Dragons)," praising the national squad.

The main avenues were blocked for traffic with fans, many waving blue and yellow hats and flags in the colours of the national squad, shouted "Bosnia, Bosnia!" and celebrated late into the night.

Outside the square, hundreds of cars were honking their horns along the streets of Sarajevo.

Bibija Kerla, former ice skater, said she was "extremely happy, like four million Bosnians."

"This means so much for our country, thank you, Dragons," she said.

For many in Bosnia, the success would be a welcome break from everyday worries in the country that has yet to recover from the bloody 1992-1995 war in which more than 100,000 people died, while half of its population fled their homes.

The country has remained ethnically divided between its Muslim, Serb and Croat communities, but many hoped such success would bring more reconciliation between the three peoples.

"Our problems remain the same after the match, but this victory can bring a feeling of hope that the changes are possible, that we can be proud of our country," said analyst Remzija Setic.

"It might have a unifying role," she added.

Bosnian Serb and Croats mostly support the national squads of Serbia and Croatia.

The majority of Bosnia's supporters are among the Muslim community, and the celebrations were organised mostly in Muslim-populated towns.

Jasmin Neimarlija said he had "no words to describe this feeling."

"It seems we have been waiting for this for ever, but we are going to Brasil and now we can sleep peacefully," he said.

Former midfielder and one of the most popular players ever in Bosnia Safet Susic took the helm of the national squad in 2009.

"This is the most important match in every player's career," Susic said before the match.

Since gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1992 the Bosnians have agonisingly all too often tripped up at the last qualifying hurdle, as they did against Portugal in the play-offs for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

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