Problems grow for Serbian side as coach is axed
WHEN the Champions League draw pitted Red Star Belgrade against Rangers or FK Zeta, optimistic noises emanated from the Serbian club that another exciting chapter in their European history was set to commence.
However, the belief seems to have quickly evaporated after a woeful display in their second qualifying round second leg tie against Levadia Tallinn. The 2-1 defeat to the Estonian champions may not have been enough to send the Serbs spiralling out, but their progression on away goals was enough to bring the sacking of coach Bosko Djurovski yesterday.
If Red Star, under new coach Milorad Kosanovic, repeat the type of performance they put in against Levadia, Rangers should go through.
The lacklustre performances have continued from last season. It may sound ridiculous with Red Star having won the double and finished 17 points clear last campaign, but displays remained far from convincing. Despite Djurovski’s legendary status within the club – having played more than 500 games for Red Star – he paid for his tactical ineptitude, even though the official line has been that his resignation was accepted.
But it remains to be seen if Kosanovic, who was coach of Red Star in the 1997/98 season, will be a noticeable improvement. Kosanovic was hugely successful in China, with Dalian Shide and his legacy as a coach also includes a spell in charge of the Malta national team. But in recent years he has practically retired from football to focus on his varied business interests.
The players, meanwhile, accept they underachieved in Tallinn and all the talk has been of a “wholly different game” against Rangers. But the main problem for the historic Serbian club (25 league titles, European Cup winners and World Club Cup champions in 1991) is not on the pitch but off it. The threat of disqualification from Europe lingers due to the behaviour of their supporters.
In summer 2001, in a Champions League qualifier away against Bayer Leverkusen, Red Star hooligans launched fireworks at German spectators. In autumn 2003, in a UEFA Cup first round game in Odense, Denmark, they rioted and fought with local police.
The final straw came in 2005 in a UEFA Cup qualifier at home against Inter Zapresic of Croatia. The visiting coach was hit on his shoulder with a mobile phone hurled from the main stand and UEFA ordered Red Star to play their next European home match against FC Basle behind closed doors.
More significantly, they also imposed a two-year suspended sentence. If there is further trouble from Red Star fans, the club will be disqualified from Europe, as happened this season to city rivals Partizan.
Serbia’s reputation has also not been aided by the national teams. At the Under-21 European Championship Finals in June in Holland – where Serbia were runners-up – some fans racially abused England’s black players. UEFA have fined Serbia but the case is not closed.
In Nyon last Tuesday, when the delegation from Partizan were given their final verdict, UEFA issued a warning that, if there are further incidents, both Serbian clubs and the national team will be disqualified from Europe.
Red Star fans will be obliged to show flawless behaviour in both games against Rangers. While DaMarcus Beasley has stated he remembers monkeylike noises against him when he played with PSV Eindhoven in Belgrade, one can only hope it doesn’t happen again.
Not only is there the threat of disqualification, but two of Red Star’s players are black – defender Ibrahim Gueye, from Senegal and midfielder Segundo Castillo, from Ecuador.
CASTILLO: racial issues