Forget politics, it’s time for football

I used to think it would be worthwhile for me to stay in Serbia if only to join the inevitable celebrations that will take place when Sloba finally croaks. However, back then my phone wasn’t bugged, and the police didn’t hang out on absolutely every street corner I set my foot upon.

Don’t think it has anything to do with me – if anybody would bug the phones in my house it would be to listen to my brother’s conversations with other ‘Otpor’ members, and I can see policemen everywhere I turn because they literally are everywhere. But even so, after what happened last month it’s just not funny anymore.

And a lot has happened. Too much for me to write about anyway, so I’ll just give you the end results of it: this country is now a dictatorship, the opposition is lying 50 feet underground, buried by it’s own incompetence, and with each passing day it seems more likely that the SS “Serbia” that’s slowly been sinking for a decade now won’t be finding a plug for it’s gaping hole anytime soon. And that’s an optimistic view. But right now I’m just too fed up with politics to comment on anything that happened in the last month. I mean, do you really expect someone to go on and on and on about politics, and in Serbia of all places, for six full months without getting tired of it?

It was interesting at first, when it looked like the opposition knew what it was doing, and the government seemed at least half-sane. Now it’s just sad and pathetic when you read that Saddam Hussein sent a letter to Sloba calling for an official union between Yugoslavia and Iraq to fight the evil of the imperialistic west.

Even more sad is the fact that when a country goes down the drain so does its football squad. At least that’s true for Yugoslavia, whose national team barely beat China (1-0), had two 0-0 draws with the South Korean B team, and lost to Hong Kong (4-2). They don’t even have their own league for Christ’s sake!
Maybe you’re wondering why we had to go to the Far East to play some friendlies. Well oddly enough, it’s not the government to blame for that one, but a foreign factor. Every single country that Yugoslavia wanted to play with, from Turkey to Holland, either agreed for a friendly and then cancelled the match or refused it right from the start. And that’s not the only problem we have in Euro 2000 because, for whatever reason, Albania started a campaign to ban us from the championships altogether. Politics in sport? Nah!

But it’s not the first time something like that has happened. Back in ‘92 we did get banned so Denmark got to go instead of us, and even won the finals in the end. Some are now saying it would have been us instead of the Danes if we had only had a chance, and they would probably be right. After all, it was only a year after Red Star Belgrade had won both the European Champions’ and the Inter–Continental cups, beating Olympique Marseille and Glasgow Rangers in the finals.

But that was nine full years ago and right now I can’t see how on earth we got to be the second favourites in our group, with Spain in the top spot, when we’re sharing the group with Norway. There’s also Slovenia, who led 2-0 against France before receiving three rather unfortunate goals. I don’t really think Yugoslavia is sad enough to get beaten by them, but a draw seems more than likely.

But as always, we’ll find a way to somehow get through the first round and then lose, just like we did in France. Of course, we have only ourselves to blame for getting so low. After winning the Champions’ Cup, Yugoslav clubs – Red Star in particular – started exporting players like mad, with money from the transfers going God knows where. So pretty soon our players were all over the place, from England to Japan, Sweden to Cyprus. And when you have players who are supposed to be in the same national squad spread throughout the whole globe, adopting different styles and quite often arguing amongst themselves when they get to play against each other, you can’t really have a healthy competitive atmosphere.

That’s why England has a slight advantage over the others. Because your football is so much different than the one played anywhere else in Europe (“so much worse”, some would say… I wouldn’t comment), the number of your players abroad is… well… do you have any players abroad right now? Because of that you’re able to have a consistent strategy, even if it only consists of an abysmal number of long passes, so it doesn’t have to be changed or re explained every time a new coach comes around. Unlike here, I should add.

Actually, it would be fine, great even, to have a new strategy with each new coach. But we changed five in two years and none of them brought anything new. The defence is always the same one used in the air strikes – praying for the attackers to miss. And we can only score either from a free kick or in one of those where-did-the-ball-go situations in front of the opponent’s goal. It’s just like in NATO – when you have more than a dozen different sides, with different interests and different tactics, you can have no strategy whatsoever, not to mention a good one.

Which also reminds me of the almost non-existent opposition we have here. Believe it or not, but there are 192 registered parties in Serbia alone, not counting Montenegro. Which wouldn’t be so bad if they could at lest get their act together and do what they’re supposed to. And that’s just one of the reasons I no longer think that waiting for Sloba to fall is a good enough reason to stay here. It’s one of the reasons why packing my bags and leaving before the boat sinks wouldn’t make me a rat. Ghana really doesn’t look like a bad option right now…