On Thursday evening I attended the Red Star Belgrade versus Tel Aviv Maccabi Elektra Euroleague Basketball game. The first round game was held in the famous Pionir Hall, in my opinion, the best venue to watch a basketball game anywhere. My Israeli friends invited me to attend the game in the Maccabi fan section and as you can see by the security in front of the section, we were well protected from the rabid Red Star fans.
Red Star, after being behind the entire game by 10-15 points, came back in the fourth quarter and had a couple of opportunities to win the game in the final moments, but lost. The crowd was so loud and the game very back and forth with both teams making great plays, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening. It was interesting being in the “enemy” section. I did not feel threatened and there was much good natured back and forth between the Maccabi fans and Red Star fans. We had to wait about 30 minutes after the game finished to walk out, and I got to my car and home without incident.
Serbia loves basketball and I highly recommend the Pionir Hall basketball experience! You will not forget it.
Last night I took the kids to the Red Star versus Radnićki game in the Adriatic Basketball Association (ABA). Radnički are the Detroit Pistons of the ABA, being from the motor city of Serbia, Kragujevac. They beat the Belgrade hosts, 83-79.
I was disappointed in Red Star and their American import, Adam Morrison. I heard a lot about the ex-Gonzaga player and was anxious to see him perform. He spent most of the game standing in the corner (see above) while the rest of the team handled the ball. They set no picks for him and he did not move without the ball at all. They also had him guarding the top player for Radnicki on defense, which got him into foul trouble in the first half. If you are paying for an import, you should use his strengths in the team’s offense. I was not happy with Morrison, he didn’t make much effort to get into the game and spent most of his efforts arguing with the officials.
The most impressive player for Red Star was a young guy off the bench, Andreja Milutinović, a 21-year old guard. He looked about 15 years old, but drove to the basket strongly and had a nice outside shot. Red Star is falling down the standings of the ABA and it doesn’t look to be a good year. It is hard to support a team that is not putting out a full effort. I should be cheering more for Partizan who this week came from 21 points down in the second half to beat Armani – Milan in the Euro League. I want to support Red Star but they are making it difficult.
Owen and Ollie had a nice time and we had great seats with our friends Jeff and Travis.
I am almost finished reading this entertaining book. The sub-title is “An (Unlikely) Theory of Globalization” and Foer looks at the two competing forces of globalization and tribalism. I am very interested in the tribalism aspect of soccer, especially when he begins the book here in Belgrade and looks at Red Star, my favorite team in the Serbian professional league.
In every country I lived, I always pick a soccer team to support. In Colombia, it was Junior of Barranquilla, in Bolivia is is Oriente Petrolero of Santa Cruz, in Australia it was the now defunct Perth Glory, and in my last post in Venezuela, baseball took the role of soccer and I supported Caribes de Oriente. So it was natural for me to select a team upon arrival in Belgrade. I am not sure what determines the team, as I usually have a choice. Part of it is the tradition and history of the club, another are the uniforms, atmosphere at the stadium, etc.Many Serbs question why I would support Red Star when they are financially unstable and in recent years, have not been very successful. I guess it is that I live in the part of Senjak neighborhood that is rabidly devoted to Red Star and the team was formed by Serbs who were against facism shortly after WWII. The club is associated more with the police and the Serbian Chetniks, than the Communist era of Tito. They are the most popular club in Belgrade, with approximately 1/2 of all Serbs supporting them. I also like the red and white color scheme over the black and white of Partizan, the rival club and the second most popular team in Belgrade.
The book is a bit dated being published is 2004, and I would like the New York Times writer Frank Foer to update each chapter. The most poignant idea Foer presents in the book is the human need to associate with a group or tribe. Humans he states, have a natural urge to associate themselves with a group, and in today’s society, the family or tribe is not relevant. Soccer clubs in many instances, fill that role and it explains the rabid enthusiasm of fans at times, even when they are not really big soccer players and do not show this allegiance in other parts of their lives. I see the appeal of this and it might be the reason I always support a local club when posted overseas. It is something that is definitely missing for most Americans. My family is spread out over the world, the USA is very large and diverse and although it somewhat gives me an affiliation, a “tribe” based on the constitution and the ideal of the freedom of the individual, it doesn’t make me feel part of an intimate group.
Serbians, being part of a small ethnic group, naturally have that feeling. And with Red Star and other clubs, they also feel the comfort of the “tribe.” Foer goes into the uglier side of tribalism in the Red Star chapter. The Red Star fans are called Delije, which is a moniker given to them by the infamous Serbian soldier, Zeljko Raznatovic, “Arkan.” Historically, they called themselves Gypsies. The book details some of the fan clubs within the Delije, which can be translated as “heroes” or “warriors.” Above is a photo of one of the many fan club murals popular here in Senjak, the Ultra Boys. Around Red Star Stadium there are some interesting murals which I should do a blog post about someday. Anyway, the Red Star fans played a big part in the wars against Croatia and eventually the revolution against Milosevic, according to this book.
The book has chapters on Celtic-Ranger, Barcelona-Real Madrid, Brazilian professional soccer, etc. and they read as separate essays. I would recommend the book to any soccer fan and people interested in history and politics. On a separate note, nice to see Red Star on top of the table in the Serbian Professional League after five rounds. They defeated Javor yesterday, 1-0.
Yesterday a group of us attended the Eternal Derby – the soccer game between the two biggest clubs in Serbian soccer. The game between Red Star and Partizan decided this season’s champion of the Jelen Beer Super Liga. Coming into the game, Partizan was 1 point ahead of Red Star atop the table with 2 rounds left in the season. There was a capacity crowd at the game and as you can see in the video, there is no stadium atmosphere like it in the world. Sadly, Partizan dominated play and won a 1-0 victory to most likely, ensure another championship. They looked faster and in better shape than Red Star, who was playing defense most of the game. I say sadly because I am a Red Star supporter. Red Star can take consolation with their victory earlier this week in the Lav Beer, Serbian Cup. The Cup is the knockout tourney that occurs simultaneously as the regular season. Red Star is in rough shape financially as are all of the teams in the Serbian league. The country is too small to have a quality league. I wish they could do the same as basketball, and form a regional league with the countries of the Yugoslavia.
The fans are fanatical, and it made the game better with all of the singing, flags, large banners, and fireworks. I don’t understand the passion however.
I enjoyed the game with my friends, a special thanks to Dan for getting us the tickets!
Last night Owen, Ollie, and I attended the Adriatic Basketball Association game between our favorite Red Star and Budućnost of Montenegro. It was an important game for both teams as they are in 7th and 6th place in the league standings respectively.
The superior guard play of Montenegrins and the weak defense of Red Star contributed to the 88-77 win by Budućnost. I was very impressed with the backcourt tandem of Goran Jeretin (26 points) and Nikola Otasevic (a 6 foot guard who can reverse dunk). They really controlled the game. Red Star did make a run and tied the game with 4 minutes left in the third quarter at 56 apiece behind a couple of nice plays by Red Star import Mike Taylor.
Budućnost pulled away from that point outscoring Red Star 32-21 the rest of the way. Red Star has several problems. Number one is they don’t play defense with intensity. The two guards for the Montenegrins kept penetrating and passing effectively the whole game. Second, Red Star has no guards and play makers. The team is heavy on tall, stiffs with few ball skills. Our favorite player, Vladimir Štimac played little and was constantly being yelled at by the coach. I would find a new coach ASAP if I was Red Star management. I would also find a slasher/scorer at the 2 or 3 position as well as a solid point guard.
We got to stay for the whole game. Ollie most loved the popcorn and running around the stadium. It is a great night out for the kids. I bought a ticket for 200 RSD ($3) , the kids were free, and the boys had popcorn and pop for another 200 RSD. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not violent or rude. Serbians love basketball (košarka) and play it well. Serbs are a tall, athletic race in general, and it shows with the quality of basketball. There are many Serbs in the NBA and US universities. They also play all over Europe and Partizan, the defending champion of the NBL, went far in the Euroleague Basketball last season.
We also had a final day in the snow. The weather was above freezing yesterday and much of the snow melted. We took advantage of the snow again yesterday morning, and went to Banavo Brdo (Ban’s Hill) a suburb of Belgrade. They have a big sledding hill and boys loved it. I promised no more snow videos or pictures but I couldn’t resist. Here is Owen heading down Ban’s Hill. As I update this late on Wednesday evening, the snow is almost gone.
Tuesday night we attended the Red Star basketball game. You may have heard of Red Star’s soccer team. The professional clubs in Serbia as in Europe have teams in many sports. They also have the different levels, beginning with a youth team, moving through to the “A” professional team.
As I explained in a previous post, one of the leagues Red Star participates in is the Adriatic Basketball League, sponsored by the NBL bank. The Round 14 game was against FMP Belgrade. They are from the Belgrade suburb of Zelenik. Red Star is tied for second place in the league with a record of 11 wins and 2 losses. Partizan is in first place and fellow Serbian team, Hemofarm STADA is tied with them. FMP is in 8th place (out of 14) with a 5 and 8 record.
Most of the players on both teams were Serbian. The Serbs are a tall people and this was reflected in the rosters, as there were two 7 footers and many big men around that height. It was a high quality of play, although the players were not quite as athletic as the USA professionals. It was an evenly matched game as the Red Star’s lead fluctuated from 4 to 10 points most of the game.
The difference were the two American players on Red Star. Andre Owens from Indiana University and Lawrence Roberts from Mississippi State, and the Memphis Grizzlies gave Red Star and extra boost when they needed it. You can see Roberts behind Owen. My sister-in-law erased most of my photos and video I took so I don’t have a video post.
The arena is called Pionir Hall and seats 7,000 people. It is located near the center of the city and it was quite easy to find with our GPS. It was in good condition and we bought the best tickets for $20 each. Best thing is kids are free!!! We were a few rows up at mid court. It was mostly filled and the fans were enthusiastic and polite. Overall it was a great experience and we hope to go again. Red Star proved too much in the end and won their 12th game.
Owen and Sebey enjoyed the game. They loved the cheerleaders performing during time outs and the scoreboard. Owen learned what the 24 second shot clock was and how to keep score. I hope both the boys will play basketball as I did when I was younger. I need to put up hoops somewhere outside and inside the house.
We attended the game with Alejandra and Brad and it was an entertaining evening.
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.
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.)