Murals outside the stadium
After the extraordinary level of helpfulness from the guys in the management and press office of KK Crvena Zvezda in procuring the basketball derby ticket the previous night, there is always one that spoils it. My mind suffers eternal flashback to the security guard waving his gun at an empty BKV Elore in Budapest. Belgrade's "Mr Unhelpful" was to be found at the defunct home of FK Obilic. In advance of my derby ticket forray, I had decided another tour of the grounds was in order. If you are reading this blog and have read others, you will have spotted the pattern developing - if there is some stadium architecture to see, I will endeavour to get to it. It really is a great way to see behind the scenes of a city - to go where no other travellers go. Anyway, back to Mr Obilic.
FK Obilic have a curious way of hiding their past. The stadium is emblazoned in over large writing - Champions of Yugoslavia 1997 - 1998. The biggest difficulty of travelling round Serbia is often the cyrilic language displays or text.... just try looking at the destination board in Belgrade's bus station. So if you
Meeting the Red Star coach in the Red Star cafe
just want to highlight your achievement, it's probably best to write your banners in cyrilic and then your average uneducated international tourist would be none the wiser as to your claim to fame. FK Obilic were the club of Arkan the Tiger........that is after he abandoned his previous status as leader of the Red Star Dejile and an infamous paramilitary outfit. The former association clearly makes them nervous ...... so much so that even wandering down the street with a large camera provoked a suggestion that I should disappear from the guy running FK Obilic’s cafe bar. He clearly thought I was some kind of journalist and repeated his suggestion when I gestured that I might venture inside the ground for a photo or two.
There were no such banners of proclamation at Hajduk. It was more a case of spot the pigeon, tucked away on a side street. "Pigeons" it seems are not quite as bold. The only obvious evidence of a football ground was a small gate. It appeared locked, but in the true spirit of the Man in the Middle I tried the handle and it wasn’t locked. I entered cautiously. There was no
sign of life at what appeared to be the caretakers cottage, so I seized my photographic opportunity and wandered across the pitch and round the perimeter. There was no sign of competition to FK Vozdovac’s recreation of Monaco, even though they were competing at the same standard. So far, so good. I headed for the exit. There was a noise from behind the main stand. It appeared that I had woken the night watchman from his early morning slumbers. He had teeth, four powerful looking legs and a tail. He bolted from his kennel and headed towards me at great speed. Shit! Fortunately, the brakes were applied short of me. It wasn’t out of choice. A very sturdy chain made the decision, as the dog succeeded in giving himself a sore neck. Time for a sharp exit.
There was no drama or incident at the last stop at FK Sindelic, who I had seen the previous day at FK BASK. No gates, locked or otherwise. Just some kids training on the astro turf behind the goal at one end and some advertising from a not so well known Austrian insurance company. A statue of what I presumed
Stop the pigeons
to be the founding father of FK Sindelic stands next to the clubhouse, looking out for further investment to repair the crumbling terrace. I headed for Red Star and hopefully a ticket.
There were plenty of people coming away from the ground as I approached, clutching their tickets. I had been told they wouldn’t be on sale until 11. It was only 10.20. Panic over. There were only about 200 people in the queues near the ticket windows and there didn’t seem a significant interest in the tickets for the West Stand. It was the price. The places in the North Stand were only 200 dinars. 800 dinars is a lot by Serbian standards, but not even £7. I made my purchased and secured it with my other valuables.
Apart from Mr Obilic, it had been a satisfactory morning. A beer was in order, but it was too early. I headed into the Red Star Cafe – a VIP area above the club offices and shops in the West Stand. I settled down in a window seat to a good view high over the pitch. Two Red Star fans on the next table engaged
An afternoon stroll
me in conversation and suggested that I visit for the derby against Partizan. I confirmed that my ticket was in the bag. They enquired whether I would be interested in meeting Red Star coach, Robert Prosinecki and pointed me round the corner, where the ex darling of Fratton Park was chewing the fat with his assistant coach. He readily agreed to a quick photo, I wished him all the best for the derby and thought it best to retreat to allow him to get on with whatever tactical discussions he was having. It clearly wasn’t anything to do with an image consultant – he definitely prefers the casual style. A friendly guy mind - you can’t quite imagine such open access in the world of the Premier League and their delusions of grandeur.
I finished my cappuccino, thanked the occupants of neighbouring table for the running commentary on all things Red Star, the introduction to the boss and made my way back into the city. It had been a busy weekend with sporting deadlines, so I settled for an afternoon walk through Republic Square and down past Skardalija. The more regular tourists were busy parting with their
A dog's life
cash in this over inflated price world. I settled for my Jelen pivos in the less celebrated neighbourhood near Boulevard Venizelosova. I had met the mad Montenegran in the same bar 18 months previously. The bar owner’s wife was still worse for wear after over indulging and the bar owner continues to try and sell her paintings. I declined and headed towards the best restaurant in Belgrade in the square opposite the former Admiral Club.
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