Biola Student Athletes Explore Diversity in Sports and Faith

Soccer Duo Spends Summer Training in Serbia

Oct. 10, 2013 By Jacquelyn Elissa Mota

Senior Carlos Ballesteros and junior Sava Pantic, a Serbian native, spent this summer in Belgrade, Serbia dedicated to refining their soccer skills by training alongside several international “futbol” players under world-class trainer Aleksandar Stajkovac.


In taking the 17-hour flight to southeastern Europe, the pair modeled Biola’s vision to develop experientially cross-cultural Christians and build diverse community across the globe.


Ballesteros and Pantic were amazed by the many opportunities they received to communicate the gospel through cross-cultural interactions with friends, family and other soccer players both on and off the field.


“People constantly asked about Biola and the United States and we were able to engage in some serious biblical conversation with some friends while we were there,” said Pantic.


Aside from enhancing his soccer skills, Pantic’s goal was to reconnect with friends and family while teaching his American teammate about his culture.


“I wanted to share my culture, people and traditions with him,” said Pantic. “We are such a passionate people who just love to live … that’s what I wanted him to see.”


Ballesteros believes that exploring new cultures, engaging in multiculturalism and traveling are essential if one’s goal is to impact the world in a positive way and thrive in society.


“Diversity and travel are super important. They get us out of our comfort zone… they push us to do things we usually don’t,” said Ballesteros.


Ballesteros was not the only one exploring a new culture, as he and Pantic trained with players from all over the world and had the opportunity to meet Serbia’s most popular club soccer team.


Although languages, countries and personalities were different, Pantic realized how there could be unity within diversity.


“We can all be from different places but it’s because we all play the same game,” said Pantic, in reference to his training partners. “It’s why the World Cup is the biggest sporting event. Soccer has a way of going past race and bringing everyone together.”


The same can be said about diversity when it comes to faith, according to Ballesteros and Pantic.


“We were able to connect even though we were not the same race … Christianity was our connection in some conversations that we had,” said Pantic.


Pantic and Ballesteros recognized through their cross-cultural experience that diversity is important and essential in expanding their social and spiritual development.


Written by Jacquelyn Elissa Mota, media relations intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, media relations specialist, at 562.777.4061 or


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