Članak je nedavno objavljen u časopisu "European Geographer". Broj je bio posvećen nogometu i geografiji, s posebnim naglaskom na svjetsko nogometno prvenstvo u Njemačkoj 2006. Autor yours truly.
It was a sunny afternoon during the World Cup in Germany: the match between Argentina and Serbia and Montenegro was about to start. The players were standing on the field and soon the anthem Hej Slaveni spread across the stadium. To an uninformed observer nothing was unusual with this picture, but to some folks in the Balkans it was the non-sentimental last good bye to what ever was left of Yugoslavia.
Two decades before this Yugoslavian team was on the make. Having won the U-21 World Cup in 1987, it seemed that the future for the country’s football prodigy was going to be shiny. The team made of young stars such as Robert Prosinecki, Zvonimir Boban, Davor Suker and Predrag Mijatovic scored on average 2.44 goals per match, upsetting Brazil on their way to the finale against West Germany. Hej Slaveni sounded proudly at the award ceremony when Yugoslavian players lifted the trophy. They were indeed the future of the game. But events that followed transformed the situation into a ‘what might have been’ story when Yugoslavia violently started crumbling into pieces. And nowhere else but on a football stadium.
The famous never-played match between Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb on May 13th 1990 amongst Croatian football fans is widely considered to be the date of the conflict kick off. After a violent rampage across Zagreb, Croatian supporters of Dinamo (called Bad Blue Boys) and Serbian supporters of Red Star (Delije) entered the Maksimir stadium. A few minutes later Delije, headed by their leader Željko Ražnatović Arkan, started tearing plastic seats and throwing them at the Dinamo supporters, alongside with bottles and stones. When they tore down the fence which was separating them from Dinamo supporters, the conflict spread to field with Serb-dominated police helping Delije in beating Dinamo supporters. The captain of Dinamo Zvonimir Boban came to help the Bad Blue Boys and attacked one of the police officers with a kung fu kick which made him an icon of the independence movement. The battle lasted for 70 minutes, police came back with reinforcements, many people were wounded, many arrested and the stadium burned. Zvonimir Boban was suspended from the national team for six months and missed the 1990 World Championship where Yugoslavia lost in the quarterfinals to – Argentina.
The battle from the Maksimir stadium soon continued in trenches, and the borders drawn on the maps divided the Yugoslav football team into six successors leaving many unanswered questions. What would become of the 1987 World champions, could they indeed fulfill their potentials or would the ethnicity and political situation within Yugoslavia influence the sport? All we know is that except for the 1998 World Cup third place won by Croatia, so far none of the ex-Yugoslav teams left a mark in football history. Serbia and Montenegro continued to (ab)use the name Yugoslavia for a few years alongside with the national anthem and football teams of both Zagreb and Belgrade were used in sharpening the nationalistic sentiments. Dinamo soon changed the name to more “appropriate” Croatia Zagreb under the strong patronage of Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and Red Star supporters become one of the strongest and most powerful pillars of Slobodan Milosevic regime.
Montenegro opted for the independence several weeks before the World Cup start, and the game against Argentina was the last to be played for an already nonexistent country. Hej Slaveni were sent to history with a final score of 0 – 6. And after all what was said and done during the nineties in the name of football, nationalism and land, it seems that nothing was more appropriate and more deserved than such a shameful and a pathetic good-bye.