A documentary about the journey of a basketball team from a war torn city to the 1993 Eurobasket
The Untold Legend of the 1993 Bosnian Basketball Team from Oliver Valente on Vimeo
It all started with the idea of writing an article, but in the first interview, when one of the players, Emir Halimic, began to speak and to tell the story of this team, quickly the project snowballed and became The Long Shot. We couldn´t miss the opportunity to dive into this extraordinary adventure, so decided to start as independent producers. Little by little, doors have been opening and the project has grown thanks to the support of many people, including the players.
From the hell in Sarajevo to the European Championship
Since we met, during the Torino Olympic Games in 2006, Oliver Valente and I had always looked for a project with which we could work together. And it made sense: A screenwriter and a director. We both love sports and the enormous dramatic and narrative capacity that comes out of it.
We did not know that this project was waiting for us in Sarajevo. One night, in December 2015, one channel was broadcasting a documentary about the legend of the Bosnian basketball Mirza Delibasic. It was the anniversary of his death and immediately the memories returned to my hometown, Madrid, and the old Real Madrid basketball pavilion and the nights when Corbalán, Brabender, Romay, Fernando Martín and, of course, Mirza Delibasic, were part of that team.
That night, I found an article that talked about the incredulous trip of the Bosnian basketball team from Sarajevo 1993, besieged by the war, to the European championship. It was an epic story, no doubt, and Mirza Delibasic was the leader of that team.
Through a friend we contacted one of the players of that team, Emir Halimic. The idea was to write an article, but when Emir started talking, we knew that we had found that project in which to work together.
What was the story? ….
April 1993. Bosnia was at war. Sarajevo was under a dramatic siege since the spring of 1992. Among such destruction, the country tried to put up gradually its institutions. One of them, the basketball federation, began to organize themselves in a precarious way, with satellite phones and contacts abroad. One of his goals was to put Bosnia on the map through sport, but to achieve it, began a mission that seemed suicidal. They tried to form a team to compete in the European Basketball Championship that was going to be held that summer in Germany. Mirza Delibasic, a legend of yugoslavian basketball, former Real Madrid player and Olympic, world and european champion with Yugoslavia, was leading that mission. For that, they had three players who were already living outside Bosnia. However, the backbone would consist of those who were surviving in Sarajevo under the siege. They would have to escape from a surrounded city and turn a bunch of malnourished, psychologically scarred young people who hadn’t had a chance to practice in over a year into a group of basketball players capable of competing against Europe’s top national teams. The plan to escape was kept into secret to ensure their safety and, finally, in early April 1993, under enemy fire and the cover of darkness, crossed the airport runways and managed to break the siege. For three months, they lived together as a family. Through this brotherhood, humor and basketball, fought against the trauma, anxiety, anger and horror that accompanied them from Sarajevo and against uncertainty about the fate of their families and friends. They had no basketball clothes, shoes or flag. During the war between Bosnia and Croatia, the Croatian players, friends and former team mates, helped them with materials and money. Nobody expected them, but in the previous qualifying tournament in Poland defeated several of the most prepared teams in Europe and came to the European Championships in Germany, where they were ranked amongst the top eight teams in the continent.
The Long Shot is the story of that journey.
What We Need
At the moment, we have filmed seventeen interviews, including those with the players and the main coach of the 1993 Bosnian team, Ibrahim Krehic. Also with Danko Delibasic, -Mirza´s son-, with legendary coaches like Bogdan Tanjevic and Mirko Novosel and with the former player of the croatian national team and Boston Celtics, Dino Radja.
The shooting took place in locations of Sarajevo, Capljina, Vlasic and Tuzla in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Split and Zagreb, in Croatia.
The team players themselves have been involved in this project and contributed with invaluable private material. This footage shows part of their trip trough Europe during the spring and summer of 1993.
At this time, we have started the post-production process, but to tell this story in the way it should be told, we need to acquire more archive material and photographs, an appropriate color grading, animation and graphics .
On the other hand, we want our documentary to have presence in festivals, but for that, we also need budget for submissions.
So far, we are moving forward with the elements we have at our disposal. We are using our resources creatively and we are happy with the result we started to see. The value of the archival material that we have is immense, but we must accompany it with the appropriate technical resources.
When we decided to put a title to our documentary, we took into account several elements. Undoubtedly, sport, war, and the epic journey were there, but there was something that powerfully called our attention; Even people who were fans of sports in Bosnia did not know the history. The reason was clear. During the war, there were much more important issues to worry about than basketball. As the point guard, Senad Begovic said: Who the hell cares about basketball?.
The documentary has today, 26 years later, an absolute validity, since it speaks of the union between athletes of nations faced at a convulsive moment. Today, these divisions are still present in Bosnia Herzegovina. We hope that our documentary will contribute to the necessary union between people beyond political considerations.
With this documentary we also recover a lost and forgotten part of the history of basketball in one of the regions where this sport has become great, the territories that formed Yugoslavia.
Not only we have unpublished material of the players of that Bosnian team, but of their selector Mirza Delibasic, a legend of the Yugoslavian basketball, of Bosna Sarajevo Club (European Champion in 1979) and Real Madrid. In addition, we have handwritten documents provided by the federation’s officers, including the first list of candidates for Bosnia and Herzegovina national basketball team.
Other Ways You Can Help
Financial contributions are fundamental, however, one characteristic of this documentary is the diverse origin of the archive sources. We intend to tell the story of the players since April 1992, when the war began and were trapped in the siege of Sarajevo, until July 1993, when the European Basketball Championship in Germany ended. If someone has archive material (pictures, video,…) about that year in Sarajevo that has not yet shared, or that has shared in small circles, it would be very useful for us. Similarly, any material related to basketball in Sarajevo during that period would be very interesting. Finally, and this is a chimera, we are looking for visual material about the people who crossed the runway of Sarajevo airport during the first year, just as the players did.