Serbia Controls Their Destiny


Tuesday evening I attended the Serbia versus Faroe Islands European Cup Qualifying Match. Serbia is in Group C and is trying to qualify for this summer’s European Cup hosted by Poland and Ukraine. With a 3-1 defeat of the Faroe Islands, they move into second place in the group.

Italy, the first place team in the group, are 8 points clear and guaranteed a spot. The second place team in the group earns a spot in a play-in round against another second place club in one of the nine groups, or if they have one of the best records for a second place team, they earn an automatic bid.

The second place spot in Serbia’s Group C is tightly contested. The good thing is Serbia controls their own fate. The other two teams behind Serbia (14 points) are Estonia (13 points) and Slovenia (11 points). Let’s break down Serbia’s chances of winning the second place position.

Serbia has two games left while the other two only have one game remaining. Serbia is hosting Italy and traveling to Slovenia next month. How they need to do depends on Estonia. Estonia travels to Northern Ireland. Let’s say Estonia wins the game in Belfast to finish the group with 16 points. That would mean that Serbia needs win at least one of the games to qualify. Both matches will be difficult. The Italians will be coming with a second-rate team because they have already qualified. It will be an emotionally-charged game. Last fall, Italy was granted a 3-0 forfeit over Serbia because the game could not be played due to a few hooligans in and out of the stadium. The match in Slovenia will not be easy either. All of the ex-Yugoslavian Derby matches are hard fought, and Slovenia has a decent team as evidenced by their qualification in the last World Cup.

We really enjoyed the game. Because no one expected the Faroe Islands to win, the stadium was only about half full and we had excellent, comfortable seats. It is a joke that the Faroe Islands can compete as an independent nation. They are located half-way between Scotland and Iceland and have a population of around 50,000. We were joking that the balding, slightly overweight striker, took a couple days off postal duties to play in the game.

I have to give the Faroe Islands team credit however. They gave a good effort, scored a goal, and they even had a cheering section behind us. Normally, young men in the Serbian crowd would look menacingly at the opposing cheering section, but because of the quirkiness and small size of the contingent, they were more laughing and staring as anything. The group has an odd chant as the their team approached the goal or had a corner kick. They even had one guy with a Viking helmet in Faroe Island colors. (see below) They even have earned 4 points in the group with a win over Estonia, which could ultimately determine Serbia’s fate.

It would be great for the “Orlovi” (Eagles as the Serbian team is nicknamed) to qualify. They had a tumultuous group stage with a coaching change, and a forfeit in Italy which also resulted in a home game against Northern Ireland in an empty stadium.

It is nice for once for Serbia to control their own destiny in trying to get into a European event. This is much different than their attempts to get into the EU. Go Serbia! Navije Srbija!

North Korea Defeats Bahrain 1-0

The VIP Section of the Bahrain National Stadium

It was certainly a different experience at the stadium last night as we watched North Korea defeat Bahrain 1-0 in an international friendly (exhibition) game in the National Stadium here in Riffa, Bahrain. The first strange thing about game was admission was free. They don’t have any tickets and do not charge spectators to enter. There were security guards at all the gates and inside the stadium, but a very relaxed atmosphere. The 10,000 seat capacity stadium was probably about 1/4 full. We had a difficult time finding four consecutive seats that were not broken. It is strange that the kingdom has such good infrastructure with roads, lights, etc, and such a poor stadium. The lights were good and the field in decent shape, but the seats, bathrooms, running track, etc. all need to be renovated. I only saw two women in the crowd, one British woman and one local in the black robes. Many fans were chewing sunflower seeds. The only items for sale were pumpkin, sunflower and other types of seeds, soda pop, and “sloppy joes” made with liver.

The game was quite boring with Bahrain trying to attack but with a lot of backwards passing and North Korea mostly playing a defensive, counter-attacking style. North Korea got the lone goal 14 minutes into the second half with a nice crossing pass to a cutting striker. The Korean goalkeeper made some nice stops, but he was annoyingly slow in retrieving the ball and kicking balls from the goal. I don’t see Bahrain getting out of their group and North Korea definitely has to step up their game to be successful in next week’s Asian Cup.

The Home Team Bahrain is in Red Uniforms

Below is the preview I wrote yesterday prior to going to the game.

Tonight I’m taking the boys to the North Korea versus Bahrain international friendly soccer game.

Both teams are getting ready for next week’s Asian Cup in neighbor Qatar. The cup features 16 teams from Asia with Australia, Japan, and South Korea as favorites. Bahrain will be grouped with Australia, India, and South Korea. North Korea will be matched up with UAE, Iraq, and Iran. It would be funny to substitute Cuba for UAE and add Venezuela to get an “axis of evil” tourney going.

Bahrain has never qualified for the World Cup. The past two cup qualifying competitions however, they lost in the final playoff leg, losing to New Zealand last year and to Trinidad & Tobago in 2006. They don’t have any players I recognize, most play in the Persian Gulf region. One guy plays on a first division Swiss team and another for a first division Turkish team.

North Korea is a more interesting team. They were in last summer’s World Cup, but lost three straight games, including a 0-7 drubbing by Portugal. The regime punished the coach by firing him and putting him on a construction job. In another article by Newsweek reporter Eve Fairbanks, she argues that the team should be banned from international competitions and discusses their star player, Jong Tae-se, a German second division player:

People who dismiss boycotts say they punish ordinary people rather than those in power, and furthermore, that cultural exchanges like orchestra tours and sports matches help dispel the sense of otherness that hangs over pariah peoples, allowing us to recognize our common humanity. Permit me to suggest that, in the case of North Korea and the World Cup, this is idiocy. Consider North Korea’s star player, the striker Jong Tae-se. A vocal and charismatic 20-something nicknamed “The People’s Wayne Rooney,” Jong has asserted that North Korea’s participation in the World Cup will do a great deal to demystify the country, win it respect and understanding abroad, and stoke pride at home. Indeed, Jong himself leads a totally normal and enjoyable-sounding life, by professional-athlete standards. He rolls in a silver Hummer, loves to snowboard, travels with an iPod and a Nintendo, and aspires to bed one of the Wondergirls—the Spice Girls of Seoul. He has also never lived in North Korea. He was born in Japan and continues to reside there, in the better-off Korean diaspora. He was the one who told the newspapers about his North Korean teammates’ quaint penchant for rock-paper-scissors. If Jong doesn’t represent the existence of Joe Ebrahim’s “dual life” in terms of North Korean society—in which a few nation-glorifying stars are allowed to pursue a capitalist lifestyle while most forage for food and dream about basic rights—I don’t know what does.

North Korea’s thrashing by Portugal means the team will not play on past their last group match, on Friday against the Ivory Coast. I suspect Jong Tae-se will manage. As for the regular North Korean fans, however, it’s not clear if they’ll be able to keep watching the Cup, thanks to a dispute between North and South Korea that affects the television signal. As for his rock-paper-scissors-playing comrades headed back to the Korean Peninsula, who knows—which is what makes North Korea’s participation in a sporting event like this one really scary. The team’s spokesman told South African journalists that the team’s one aim was to make the Dear Leader (he really said that) happy. A team whose purpose in winning is to bring honor to an inhumane regime—as South Africa’s apartheid rule was—should not be allowed a world platform to do so, particularly when its players face a dark reward for losing.

The team, except for the two diaspora Japanese ringers (Jong and another guy) were publicly shamed in a six-hour assembly. Weird! I wonder in tonight’s game if they will have any fans? I am looking forward to an interesting experience. I predict a Bahrain win, 2-1.  I’ll have photos and a match report tonight.

Latest Reading: “How Soccer Explains the World” by Franklin Foer

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.

Red Star Fans in the Background of last year's "Eternal Derby" Game

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.

Ultra Boys Graffiti In our Neighborhood of Senjak

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.

Serbia versus “The Rest of the World” at the Football Expo 2010

Atacante with Coach Antic

An amazing game last night at the 2010 Sajam Fudbala (Football Expo) in New Belgrade. The boys’ football club, Atacante had the honor of opening the Expo by playing a friendly “U-10” game between Serbia and “The Rest of the World.” Owen and Ollie and the international students of ISB that belong to the club played against the Serbian kids of the club. The game was played on a mini-soccer field inside the ExpoCenter, which is a big exhibition hall next to the Holiday Inn in New Belgrade. The Sajam is going on all weekend with exhibitors of soccer camps, professional clubs, sports television, and sporting goods, all having interactive booths.

The Rest of the World lost 2-1 in the game. Both Owen and Ollie played well and I’ll be posting video of the game tomorrow. The highlight was getting to meet the Serbian National Soccer Team coach, Radomir Antic. He is the guy in the center of the photo. A big thanks to Atacante coach Mihailo for organizing this for the club! It was an unforgettable experience. The city is getting excited for Serbia’s World Cup games. They open up against Ghana on June 13.

Ollie on the Attack
Owen Gets Ready to Enter the Game

Serbia World Cup Draw


Last Friday the World Cup Soccer draw took place. There was a lot of hype and attention on the event, as everyone was hoping for an easy draw. I was most interested in Serbia’s group and this post is an analysis of their chances of winning the World Cup. 
I think people put too much emphasis on which group their team gets placed into. I look at it like it doesn’t matter when you face the tough opponents, whether in your group or in following rounds, eventually you are going to have to beat a quality opponent. For each group of 4, the top two qualify. Then the 16 teams in the 8 groups advance to the single elimination bracket. Qualifying from an easy group, a team will likely play a tough opponent in the knockout round of 16.
Serbia’s group is one of the tougher groups of the eight. Of course, the favorite is Germany. The Germans have been in the championship game 7 times in their history and have won three World Cups. The team cruised through its qualifying group, easily defeating Russia and Finland. The team once again is solid, with Chelsea star Michael Ballack leading the way. Germany’s discipline, physical play, and talent will be hard to beat.
Serbia is ranked second in the group on paper, but I would say that all three teams are just about even.  Ghana is a country of 23 million and are a traditional African power, winner several African Cups over the years. “The Black Stars” recently won the Under-20 World Cup and last World Cup, made it out of the first round, losing to Brazil 0-3 in the round of 16. The team features another Chelsea superstar, midfielder, Michael Essien, and also, former Vojvodina FK coach, and Serb, Milovan Rajevac is the coach. 
Australia qualified through Asia for the first time. Usually they compete in the Oceania group, but wanted tougher competition to prepare for the Cup. They beat Japan to get in, and their star is Tim Cahill, from Everton. 
Serbia has a good of chance as anyone. They won a tough qualifying group, finishing higher than France, Austria, and Romania. They have top league European based players, with the star being Nemanja Vidic for Manchester United. They looked out classed against France however, and I fear that both Germany and Ghana, may have a faster game than the Serbs. I do feel good with Vidic in the back, and the Serbs do play tough soccer. 
If they do get through, they will have to play either #1 or #2 of group C which features England, USA, Algeria, and Slovenia. Suppose they finish second, they could play England. The winner then plays either group 1 winner France or group 2 runner-up Argentina. That would put them in the semifinals. As you can see, it will be very tough odds for Serbia to win it all. 
There has only been a small number of teams that have won the World Cup in recent years. Realistically, the winner will be Brazil (192 million), Germany (82 million), Italy (60 million) England (50 million) France (62 million). The Netherlands, with 16.5 million, is the smallest country to consistently appear in the semifinals. Note that Croatia did make it to the 1998 semifinals which is an anomaly. My idea would be to have a large nation and a small nation World Cup. Set it at say 20 million, and nations with a population smaller than that would compete in one tourney and larger nations in the other. You could even have the winners meet. I know other factors come into play other than population, like coaching, financial support, youth programs, etc, but long-term, the chances of a very small nation winning it are remote. There are many smaller nations with excellent soccer, like Denmark, Paraguay, Portugal, etc. that would make for an interesting World Cup, small division. There is a nice article in the Wall Street Journal that has similar thoughts to my ideas. 
I would also modify the game of soccer to allow more goals. Because the extreme difficulty of scoring goals, too many games come down to a lucky bounce or an acting dive in the penalty box. I don’t like to watch a game where one team dominates play the entire game and then loses with one counter attack that results in a goal. The modifications I propose would be larger goals, more lenient offsides rule, stricter penalties for players faking a trip (automatic red card and forced to wear a pink tutu for the rest of the season or tourney), etc. I would rather see games finish 8-7 than 0-0 and a team wins with penalty kicks. 
Anyway, I’ll enjoy watching the games in June and there will be a lot of excitement here in Serbia. Living an expat global nomad lifestyle, I have several alligences to other teams including Australia and the USA. My South American teams did not qualify this time (Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela). 


Serbia Qualifies For The World Cup!!


Owen & Sebey At Red Star Stadium
Owen & Sebey At Red Star Stadium


Last night my friend Claudiu and I took the kids to the Serbia versus Romania World Cup Qualifying match. Serbia was leading Group 7 in the European Group and needed a win to secure a spot in next summer’s World Cup soccer tourney in South Africa. They earned their spot with an emphatic 5 – 0 win over neighboring Romania. 

We got pumped up for the game with a lunchtime soccer match
We got pumped up for the game with a lunchtime soccer match

My last experience at the stadium for the Austria qualifying match was horrible and I was apprehensive in taking three young boys (Owen, Sebey & Tudor) to the game. We were crushed in the entrance at that game, but last night’s game was very well organized. Stadium officials looked at the tickets at several checkpoints on the way to our seats. The seats were numbered and there was one seat for every person. There were also many police and ushers in the aisles to prevent overcrowding in the exits like last time. 

Serbia obviously outplayed Romania and were back to their up tempo attacking football that has been lacking the past few matches. At the end of the match, there was a big celebration with fireworks and President Tadic in his luxury box opening up the champagne. Serbia qualified for the first time as an independent nation – in 2006 in Germany, they were still Serbia-Montenegro. It is interesting the there are several ex-Yugoslavia republics with chances of qualifying. Bosnia-Hercagovina will finish in second place in their group and will play off to get in. Slovenia also is in second place and could qualify automatically as group winner if Slovakia loses to Poland. Croatia is one point out of second but will probably not get into the playoff.

How will they do in South Africa? They have as good of chances as anyone else. They have one superstar, Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic. They are solid in the midfield with InterMilan player and team captain, Dejan Stankovic. My favorite player on the team and possibly their best, is Milos Krasic. He plays for CSKA Moscow and really makes things happen for Serbia. He is fast and always moving forward and is always involved in Serbia’s goals. He is a player to watch out for as he is only 24. I can’t believe one of the bigger European clubs hasn’t picked him up yet. They also have the tallest soccer player at this level, 6’8” Nikola Zigic. He usually gets several good header opportunities in front of the goal every game. Their goalie is solid and if the role players can step it up, they have a shot at taking on the big boys. They need another big scorer as I don’t think Marko Pantelic, one of the strikers is up to World Cup level of play. He is always complaining on the field and doesn’t really do a whole lot in my opinion. They will always be in games with Vidic as center back. 


Lunch With the Romanian Supporters
Lunch With the Romanian Supporters

The qualification means the World Cup will be much more interesting for me with Serbia and the USA in the tourney. I have photos on my Blackberry but haven’t yet figured out how to upload them to my computer. I will post some photos from the game when I get a chance.

Serbia Versus France


I photographed this sign close to my house. It is in the Cyrillic script and reads in the Serbian Latin script, “Srce Na Teren” which in English translates to “Leave Your Heart On the Field.” I guess some other rough English translations would be to “Give 100%” “Do or Die” “There is No Tomorrow”. They are all sport cliches refering to the big World Cup Qualifying match that will occur September 9, 2009 (09.09.09).

Serbia leads the Group 7 European Qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa. They have a five point advantage over second place, and group favorite France. France has an extra game to play on September 5, hosting Romania. If they win, they will then come into the Serbia game only 2 points behind. After playing Serbia, France has only to host the tiny Faroe Islands and Austria in October when group play completes. Serbia has a bit tougher after France, hosting Romania and then traveling to Lithuania. So it looks like the September 9th game will decide the group winner. 

Serbia lost to France 1-2 back in September of last year. This is their only loss and they have been impressive, winning in Romania and Austria. France has stumbled twice, losing in Vienna and a draw in Romania. It will be a fantastic match. The team finishing second place in the group will have to play a second place team in another group to qualify for South Africa. I’ll definitely be blogging the game live. 

I have previously blogged about the Serbian soccer team here, and our near death experience here.

September 9th Update: I watched the game from my home. I had the High School Open House at my school the same night as the game. I got home in time to watch it. I saw the Serbian penalty goal. It didn’t look like much of a foul, but the ref had to call it. I think the red card was a bit excessive. Great penalty kick, however, and Serbia was up 1-0. France came back to equalize on a good goal by veteran Henry. I had to put my daughter to bed at halftime and missed the second half. I watched the highlights immediately after the game. Serbia hit the crossbar on one good attempt but couldn’t get another goal. 

I think they played well and with a tie, it makes next month’s game (Serbia hosting on Saturday October 10) with Romania huge. They are still four points clear of France, but with France hosting the Faroe Islands in the next round, they can expect France to get three points. A win at home against Romania would clinch a spot in South Africa. Another tie, and it will come down to the last game on Wednesday October 14. Serbia goes to Lithuania and France hosts Austria. 

Serbia controls their own destiny and I would like to see them beat Romania to earn their place in the World Cup this summer! 


Serbia Defeats Sweden

Last night a bunch of us from school went to the national soccer team of Serbia play an exhibition match with Sweden. The game was held in Partizan Stadium, which is close to the school. Serbia is doing well lately in it World Cup Qualifying Group and continued to play top flight soccer with a 2 – 0 victory.
The “White Eagles” got off to a fast start with a goal in the first minute of play by the 6 foot 8 striker, Nikola Zigic. He plays in the Spanish league (Racing Santander) and used his height to head in a crossing pass into the back of the net.

Boys from ISB Enjoy the Game
Boys from ISB Enjoy the Game

Sweden dominated play in the first half but did not get a goal. I had to go home to take care of the kids as Nadia has the flu and needed help. Fortunately, I didn’t miss much of a half and got back in time to see Serbia get back control of play. They scored a second goal in the 82nd minute by Bosko Jankovic, who plays for Serie A team Genoa.
Serbia is currently first in its group in qualifying for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. They are at the midway point of the games. The top team in this European Group 7 qualifies automatically for the World Cup. In the remaining five games, Serbia will host Austria on June 6, travel to the Faroe Islands on June 10. When I get back from summer holidays, they have a huge game against soccer powerhouse France on September 9 at Red Star Stadium. They then host Romania on October 10, and finish the qualifying round by traveling to Lithuania October 14.
Serbia’s main rival in the group, France, defeated Serbia, but they lost to Austria and tied Romania, to end up 2 points behind Serbia. Lithuania is third, 3 points behind Serbia and Austria is five points behind.

Kosovo-born, CSKA Moscow Player Milos Krasic Heads Towards the Net
Kosovo-born, CSKA Moscow Player Milos Krasic Heads Towards the Net

Serbia features several European professional soccer superstars. The captain of the national team, Nemanja Vidic is considered one of the top defenders in Europe and plays for Manchester United. They have many young stars and this is a team that has a shot, as its toughest games in the second half of the qualifying round are at home. Regardless of the outcome, it will be exciting to follow.

MS School Girls’ Soccer Team Wins in Sofia


We had a great trip to Sofia, Bulgaria this weekend. It was my first CEESA sporting event. The Middle School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams traveled the 7 hours to visit the Anglo American School of Bulgaria. We played two games, one on Friday afternoon and the second on Saturday morning before heading back home to Belgrade.

The girls arrived in Belgrade moments before the game. After a long bus ride due to traffic on the “Ring Road” in Sofia, the girls were a bit lethargic. Yasemin however, scored the first goal of the game within seconds of the kick off. AAS then proceeded to reel off 5 unanswered goals. ISB played much better in the second half after some adjustments were made. Striker Natasa scored a goal and we ended up tieing the second half, 1-1. That was a portend of things to come.

The players then went with the host families and spent the night in Sofia. They made some good friends and saw a different way of life. That is a big part of the CEESA sport exchanges.

On Saturday morning the ISB Dragons were hungry for revenge. The combination of Yasemin as sweeper and Natasa as striker paid off as they combined for four goals. Johanna was incredible in goal making numerous stops, allowing only one goal. ISB won the game 4-1 and evened the goal differential between the two games at 6 goals apiece. A fitting end for two well played games.

All the girls showed improvement during the season. The dedication to practice and games really showed. Standouts on defense were Ana Maria and Natasha. They continually frustrated AAS by clearing the ball out of bounds. Midfielders Tamar, Charlotte, and Vanessa, although being small physically, were big in performance and really played well. ISB played both games without substitutes and a much younger team than AAS. They are to be congratulated for their fitness and teamwork.


Most Valuable Player (Girl of the Match) Yasemin G. clears the ball.
Most Valuable Player (Girl of the Match) Yasemin G. clears the ball.



I would like to thank the parents of the players, Coach Jamie Van Drunen, Athletic Director Will Clowney, and AAS Athletic Director Murray Te Huti for their efforts in making the season and the trip a big success!!!

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.)