Thursday, September 27, 2012

Serbian National Soccer Team afraid of own fans

Many soccer fans around the world have a bad reputation when it comes to the treatment of opposing teams. However, in Serbia they aren’t averse to taking out their anger on their home team either. Because of this, the Serbian national team is trying to have its next home game moved from the city of Belgrade to the friendlier confines Novi Sad in the north of the county.

Serbia is scheduled to kickoff against Belgium in a World Cup qualifier in October, but is afraid of the hostile reception the team may receive from the fans in Belgrade. Team manager Sinisa Mihajlovic said his players would rather have the contest moved to Novi Sad because the fans there are more supportive of the team. Serbia played their last home game there earlier in September and a home crowd of 15,000 cheered them on to a 6-1 win over Wales.

Mihajlovic realizes that the team won’t to be able to pack as many fans into the smaller stadium in Novi Sad, but is hoping that UEFA will agree to the move and that the Belgian Football Association won’t have a problem with a change of venue either. The manager said it’s really up to Belgium to agree to the move and then UEFA just needs to approve the request. He said if Belgium doesn’t want to change stadiums then

Serbia won’t have a choice and the match will have to be played in Belgrade.

Mihajlovic admitted that the team is fed up of being the target of insults and jeers in Belgrade, and his team feels like the visiting squad when playing there. He feels that gives the opposition an advantage and he doesn’t want to play in that atmosphere when they’re at home since they have to play under the same circumstances when they’re on the road.

It doesn’t matter which stadium Serbia plays in while in Belgrade, since fans at the Partizan club’s ground and those at Marakana Stadium where Red Star plays, all get on the team at home and have done since it’s brutal showing during the qualifying rounds of this summer’s European Championships (EURO 2012).

Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic of Partizan Belgrade has especially taken a lot of fan abuse since he played for the team’s main rivals before joining Partizan in 2010. Red Star Belgrade fans attacked the 29-year-old goalie prior to an away game in Genoa against Italy earlier in 2012. Serbian supporters then started a riot at the game and it was cancelled after just seven minutes with Italy being awarded a 3-0 victory.

Serbia played against Ireland in Belgrade in September and the 5,000 home fans on hand in Belgrade hurled abuse on the players and manager for their poor performances of late. Mihajlovic said he doesn’t know what may happen when the team plays in Belgrade, but doesn’t want to risk it. He said he doesn’t have a clue how many fans might show and which team they’ll be cheering for. He added that the abuse is harmful to his young players and he the team is jeered again the next time in Belgrade then he doesn’t ever want to play there again as long as he’s in charge.

However, he said if the game against Belgium can’t be changed then they’ll see how things go in Belgrade and then go from there. Serbia sits on top of their World Cup qualifying group by goal difference after beating Wales and tying Scotland 0-0 in Glasgow.

Ian Palmer
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