Prob­lems grow for Ser­bian side as coach is axed

The Herald - Herald Sport - - Football - VLADIMIR NO­VAK Vladimir No­vak is a Ser­bian sports jour­nal­ist

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

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