“Mugi, Mugi, Mugi”. The support is coming from the fans in the little tennisstadium in Budva. They are friends and fans of Vladica Babic and they encourage their favourite tennisplayer. She answers the yell almost everytime with a big smile. “Mugi is short for Muguruza”, she explains. “When she became a well-known player, two of my friends told me I look like her. That’s not the case at all, but to them I am Mugi now.”
In Tivat, along-shore the Bay of Kotor, you’ll find a sporting complex. Inside: the table tennis players who participate at the Games of the Small States of Europe. They play their matches in front of very few people an that’s too bad, because there is plenty to watch. There’s a player who certainly has reached the age of 50 (Ulrika Quist), there are two Asian-looking players (Chimei Yan and Xiaoxin Yang), there is a player who’s got only one arm (Filip Radovic) and there is that guy you’ll recognize immediately.
His name is revealed later, not that he’s well-known, but it fits perfectly with his character and appearance.
Zwarte berg. Het is de vertaling van Montenegro. Afgeleid van de beroemde bult Lovćen, die een zwarte uitstraling zou hebben. Rondom de atletiekbaan van Bar zijn de bergen vooral groen en grijs. Maar bergen zijn er. Overal. In dit voor tekenaars en schilders geschikte landschap strijden de atleten op de Games of the Small States of Europe om de medailles. Onder hen de IJslandse Nederlandse Anita Hinriksdottir.
Al twee keer eerder nam ze deel aan het evenement, in 2013 en 2015. Toen was ze nog volledig IJslandse, inmiddels heeft ze Nederland
omarmt als tweede vaderland. De 23-jarige 800- en 1500 meterloopster woont en studeert in Nederland en traint onder Honoré Hoedt, voormalig trainer van onder meer Sifan Hassan en Bram Som.
Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. And that’s a shame, because sometimes the small bushes are beautiful. Januz Kocijancic, chairman of the European Olympic Comittee, adresses the big countries. “If they join an event, with al their power, you can’t see the small ones anymore, that’s why we cluster together.”
It is recommended to look behind the big trees, so you can see the beautiful and wildly growing other flora. You’ll get a closer look at the results and the sporty goals of Liechtenstein or Andorra (and seven other countries). The European Games, held at the end of June in Minsk, Belarus, is not the only big multi-sport event this summer. The Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE), held in five different cities in Montenegro, is a close second.
“We can compete with each other on an equal basis, with the same means”, says Kocijancic. “These small countries are being ignored in the big leagues, they can’t keep up with that level. The power of us small states lies within cooperation.”
“Our advantage is our lack of becoming bigger. We don’t have any ambition to dominate. Not in sports, not on any other level. There are no hidden agendas, we don’t play political power games. Let that be an example fort he big countries, maybe they can be a little bit more humble.”
Kocijancic emphasizes he doesn’t oppose tot he big countries. They are important for a powerful Europe. The Slovenian is becoming a true European. “This a beautiful continent, with big and influencial countries as Russia, Germany and the Netherlands. If we cooperate, there will be more democracy and maybe a greater European idea. Who says only rich and powerful states make the rules?”