Tuesday, 17 August 2010

FK Partizan

A Passage to Inđija

Serbian Superliga

FK Partizan 2-1 FK Inđija (14:08:10)

Until we strike that sponsorship deal with Easy Jet (what are they waiting for?) we can't be all over Europe every week watching football. One of our friends in the north Matt Wilkinson was lucky enough to be out in Belgrade last weekend. Did he managed to sneak a cheeky game in? Of course he did, and here he is making his EFW debut on that very subject:

My old friend Jim has always had an adventurous streak, so when he suggested a visit to Belgrade for his stag-do, I immediately thought football as one of the activities for the weekend. And we were in luck, reigning champions Partizan were at home to newly promoted FK Inđija on the Saturday night. Personally, being a Man United fan I'd have preferred Crvena Zvezda due to their associations with United and the Munich Air Crash, or even the Partizan - Red Star derby, but I could hardly start ordering a group of lads about just for my footballing whims.

There was a group of nine of us, none of whom had been Serbia before. One of our group hadn't even been on a holiday for five years, so we weren't sure of what to expect. Our knowledge was little more than the media representation of a nationalist war-mongering regime that has had all sorts of accusations thrown at it such as murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide. That was a few years back, so whilst we had a few preconceptions, we were pretty sure we weren't entering a war zone.

That said, the taxi from the airport provided us with the sight of a number of spectacular bombed out embassies and government buildings. Left as they were since NATO bombed them in 1999 in response to Serbia's role in the Kosovan war, which certainly caused no little discussion.

Louder than bombs.

Pre game was a bout of bar and restaurant hopping, with the obligatory amazement at the cheapness of good honest ale in such Eastern European capitals (I'm on my way - Ed.). Partizan's ground didn't appear to be too far out of the city centre, however, after a good feed at a traditional Serbian restaurant we felt a taxi would make life easier, and at around 400 Dinar (around £4) for a 3 mile journey we weren't complaining.

We knew that outside of the big derby games, Serbian SupaLiga matches were tragically unattended but upon arriving at Stadion Partizan we were surprised to see the Police and five touts outside, and not really anyone else. Turns out that the kick off had been switched at the last minute, we arrived at 8pm for a 7.30 kick off. The touts were hassling us big style, and as we couldn't see the ticket office, we took our chances... a fiver each, we could cope with that.

I'd been a few euro aways with MUFC so wasn't surprised with some of the behaviour at the entrance, chucking away of change and lighters etc, though some of the lads were a bit peeved to say the least. The police were dressed up like extras from Rollerball and the concourses around the ground were vast, musty concrete 'spaces' that luckily carried on with the great Serb tradition of strong ale at a working mans price.

For what was left of the first half we just found our bearings and took a minute to find our breath. It was around 34 degrees, and humid with it. Whilst sweating through the seats of our pants we discovered Partizan had taken the lead in the 2nd minute through the bizarrely named 'Cleverson', though he wore 'Cleo' on his back.

There is a light that never goes out.

Cheap as chips - tick.

The Tunnel of Love?

The ground held in excess of 30,000, but there couldn't have been more than 6,000 there. Luckily the majority tucked themselves tightly into one corner, which resulted in some impressive chanting and synchronised European 'Ultra' behaviour, such as bouncing up and down in unison, turning their backs to the game and linking shoulders etc. There were some impressive looking banners, including a union jack in black and white as well as pictures of bygone army generals in 19th century uniform. A little more disconcerting were a number of flags with the Celtic Cross symbol, a symbol I'd come across with Lazio fans related with the White Power movement.

Half time was an excuse for more cheap ale, and rather surprisingly there was no queue, something we couldn't imagine back home. The second half was a livelier affair with FK Inđija bringing on subs, in particular the lively Augusto Batioja and taking the game to Partizan. Some good midfield and tricky forward play almost made an impact, with a free kick striking the bar late on. However, Partizan broke with ten minutes left and through some comedic defending went two up through local hero Radosav Petrović to effectively kill the game.

Stadion FK Partizan. Five quid well spent.

One of the lads was a bit legless by this stage...

Inđija pulled a goal back with a Ljubinkovic free kick. He crossed the ball into the box which bounced off the ground, went up and into the net besides confused keeper Ilic, and without anyone touching it. A few minutes earlier and we could have had a tighter affair.

Partizan left the pitch to raptuous applause, probably more to the fact that Crvena Zvezda had drawn than their own victory. This was Inđija's first game in the Serbian top division and by that display, they shouldn't be too downhearted.

Taxis were in short supply so a lengthy hike back to the city centre ensued. After a few more ales and resting our feet we were ready for another night on the tiles. We ended up at a club in what seemed to be a derelict hospital playing anything from so called 'Turbo Folk' to 'The Clash' to 'Rammstein' in the courtyard of said building amongst gorgeous Serbian ladies who wanted nothing to do with a load of beered-up Mancunians at 5am and, who could blame them.

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