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.

Humanitarian Organization Divac Program at ISB

Our Community Service Program at the school is turning it up a notch for the holiday season. The high school students on Wednesday, participated in a presentation by the Humanitarian Organization Divac (HOD). HOD employee Aleksandra is shown above, explaining the Christmas Card program. All of our students are selling Christmas Cards to raise money and awareness for HOD. Ana, shown to the right, gave a moving talk on the refugee problem in Serbia. HOD was founded by ex-NBA basketball star Vlade Divac. He is now living in Serbia and when he visited along with his wife Ana, the collection centers for refugees in Serbia, he was moved to help. Vlade was known for his philanthropic deeds, and now he is focusing his work in his home country.
During the break up of Yugoslavia, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Serb citizens were forced to flee their homes in Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Many were traumatized by the violence and the loss of their homes, jobs, and lives of loved ones. Many of the refugees still live in these centers, getting by with limited resources. The Serbian government and economy are still recovering from the wars and the international embargoes and can only supply limited support. HOD’s goal is to help these people get their lives back together. They have purchased over 100 homes for families and they are also giving job training to help the refugees start again.
From the HOD website is an excerpt about the program:

Today, Serbia is a country with the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Europe.

Thousands of refugees and IDPs still live in collective centers across Serbia, in poor conditions, terrible hygiene, without jobs, salaries, pensions and often without the opportunity to legally obtain any type of income.

They can’t return to their homes. The refugee camps are their only “home”.

After more than 10 years of living in such circumstances, they feel abandoned, forgotten, without hope that they can make any change for the better. They have no will or strength to even try.

We ask that anybody who feels compelled, to join us in this effort to help them find new homes, material and financial security, so they can live a decent and dignified life once again.

Humanitarian Organization Divac (HOD) launched the “You Can Too” initiative with the mission to help these people realize their right to a home, a job, material security, psychosocial help and an opportunity to start a new life after years of living in refugee centers.

Individuals such as Vladimir Radmanovic, Zarko Paspalj, Scot Pollard, Sasha Danilovic, Chuck Peterson, Sasha Djordjevic, Chris Webber, Savo Milosevic, Dejan Bodiroga, Zoran Savic, Peja Stojakovic and many others, have already taken part. We invite you to join us.

If Divac can help, You Can Too!

I will let the refugees tell their own story in the video below. We plan on visiting a collection center in two weeks and the students want to help more.

Refugees collect rainwater in a center in Kralijevo
Refugees collect rainwater in a center in Kralijevo

I also came across a really good post on video lecture sites on the internet.

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.)