Serbia: Sports Heaven

 

It is nice to feel like a kid again! Standing next to Vlade I feel like I am ten years old. He was kind enough to pose with me at this weekend’s MS girls volleyball tourney.

Our girls’ team won the tourney easily. We had a tall, athletic front line of Serbian students that the other teams could not handle. As I said many times before, there seems to be a disproportionate percentage of tall, athletic people here in Serbia. That combined with the sports and training focus in the culture, makes this small country a remarkably successful nation in Europe and the world.

Vlade’s Second Trick Shot

 

I uploaded the other shot I discussed in the previous blog post. Above, Vlade makes a shot lying down at half court. He makes the shot in four attempts. I believe he did this shot in a television commercial and one of the students asked if it was a trick shot. He promised us that he would make on in five attempts or less. I tried to do it and couldn’t make it to the rim. He makes it look much easier than it is.

Vlade Divac Half Court Shot

 

We had a special visit to our high school boys’ basketball practice. Former NBA All-Star Vlade Divac stopped by to help the student athletes with aspects of their game. He talked about doing the little things right, like crisp passing, wide elbows on rebounds, boxing out, have a repetitive free throw ritual, etc. The students were truly inspired.

At the end of practice he had a little fun with us. In the video above, he is telling a story of a trip to China. He demonstrates the one-handed, back-to-the-basket, half court shot. All net in one attempt. Truly amazing. He also laid down at half court and made the basket from the floor in three attempts.

I can see why he is a basketball legend. Great size combined with attention to detail, athleticism, and lots of hard work. Thanks to Mik J. for the video above. The start shows his hand as he was taking his camera out of the bag. Vlade appears shortly after the start.

The Eternal Derby

 

 

Sunday Oliver and I attended the “Eternal Derby” in Belgrade. The derby is the game between the two biggest teams in the Serbian Professional Soccer League, Red Star and Partizan. The game was held in the Red Star Stadium (Crvena zveda in Serbian) in front of over 20,000 spectators.

Both teams are known for their fanatical hooligans, and I was a bit tentative from attending the game. But the father of one of my students kindly purchased tickets in the VIP section of the stadium for us which was safe. The father happened to be former NBA basketball star Vlade Divac. He hand delivered them to me on the morning of the game. You can see him behind Oliver’s head in the background of the photo above. He is known for his kindness and humanitarian service and it is true. It was a very nice gesture and I want to give him a huge thank you! Please donate to Humanitarian Organization Divac. Vlade is a big star still here in Serbia. I guess the equivalent of this in the US would be Magic Johnson giving us tickets for a Laker-Celtic game. Very cool!

The stadium had an amazing atmosphere! The fans of Partizan especially sang, had banners, fireworks, etc and were on their feet the entire game. We went to the game with my colleague, Luiz, a science teacher in the secondary school. He is from Brazil and used to this kind of rabid fans, but even he was impressed.

The Partizan Fans Celebrate A Goal

The Partizan Fans Celebrate A Goal

Partizan won this 134th edition of the derby, 2-0. There were many goal opportunities for both teams and the action was non-stop. This is Partizan’s sixth straight win in six rounds of the league and they are in first place. Red Star is in eigth place out of twelve teams, with 2 wins, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Red Star is the biggest and most popular team in Serbia. They were formed in 1945 shortly after Tito took over, hence the communist red star symbol. They won the forerunner of the European Champions League in 1991, the only former Yugoslavian team to do so. Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, they have fallen on hard times, as most of the top Serbian players go for the higher salaries of other European leagues. Oliver is a big fan of Red Star and so am I.

Partizan is more of a working class team and the second most popular team in Serbia. They were also … (time to go to school, I’ll finish this post later.)