Serbia defeated Austria 1 – 0 Saturday evening in a World Cup Qualifier at Red Star Stadium in Belgrade. Serbia got an early goal through a penalty kick and the rest of the game was scoreless. Both teams hit the goal post, with Austria having a few more chances for a goal than Serbia. Serbia was lucky to get the three points, as they were not as explosive offensively as in past games. They will need to play better to win the group. The win takes them to 18 points in 7 games. They play the Faroe Islands this week in their last game until September. On a side note, I think it is a joke that a group of “autonomous” islands that belong to Denmark can have a World Cup Qualifying team with a population of 50,000. What a waste of money for Serbia to have to travel there! The Faroe Islands have absolutely zero chance of ever qualifying for a World Cup.
We didn’t get to enjoy the game because of the over crowding in the stadium. The game was sold out and then some. I should have known something was up when I noticed fans arriving to the stadium two and 1/2 hours before gametime. I am used to having to do this from my many years in Latin America, especially Colombia. Many Latin American countries have problems with counterfeit tickets, seats being sold twice by corrupt game officials, poor crowd control and security in the stadium. This causes fans to have to show up hours before a big match to guarantee a seat. It seemed like a similar situation in the stadium here. We unfortunately arrived 15 minutes before kick off. I had Owen with me as well as my friend Eric. There were lines to enter the stadium, and funny thing was they never even checked our tickets. We got to the tunnel leading to our seats and it was tightly packed. As we were walking in and down the steps, we felt pushed from behind. It was quite crowded and Serbs are big people. I put Owen on my shoulders and I was concerned that I was going to fall. Eric put out his shoulder and braced himself against the wall as I eventually passed Owen to a soldier that was there. Luckily the press box was right next to the exit and the soldier kindly passed Owen up over the plexiglass wall and a cameraman helped him over. After he was safe, Eric and I made our way out of the aisle in into the row beneath the press box. It was standing room only all the way down the aisle and next to the aisle. It was this way for all of the tunnels leading to the field around the stadium. People were shouting “polako” (take it easy) and as game time approached, they all got settled in. One young boy was a bit shook up as he also escaped and stood by us. I don’t think we would have been trampled, but it if we would have fallen down, it could have gotten ugly, especially for Owen.
This brought home to me that stadium officials need to be more organized. It will keep me away from the stadium because I don’t have 5 hours to waste at the stadium and it was not comfortable to watch the game. They need better control at the gates and entry tunnels. I was surprised at this because of all of the other events I attended here, have been well done.