Sparking trouble

After the war nothing seems to be as exciting as the air raids, but there are some stories that everybody has been talking about this week. For example, a 17-year-old has been killed by a runaway flair at a football match between the two biggest teams (and rivals) in Serbia (one of the two Yugoslav republics). The person who fired the flair is a fan of the same team as the person he killed, but the stadium in which the incident happened belongs to the opposite one. So, both clubs will probably get penalised – one for not controlling its fans, the other for bad security.

This accident will probably have great implications in England, too. The same day the incident took place, a UEFA inspector was in Montenegro (the second part of Yugoslavia) to see if conditions are good enough for a match to be held between England and Yugoslav teams in the European Under-21 Cup. England want the match to be played elsewhere, saying that their players would be in danger, that all of the stadiums are bad, and that there are no flights to Yugoslavia, so they couldn’t even reach it. But, there are air flights to Montenegro, and the stadium is, in the words of a UEFA inspector, “quite satisfactory, apart for some minor details”. However, he said that before the flair accident occurred, and it’s very likely now that the English will step up their campaign to move the match to a different (neutral) location, or even cancel it all together and disqualify Yugoslavia.

So you really have to feel for the guy who fired that flair. He brought it to the match thinking it would probably be taken away at the entrance, but if it wasn’t and that it would be great to fire it when his team scores. And now he’s ended up killing a person, turning the whole Yugoslav nation against him and being threatened with a life sentence (and that’s what some people have been calling for) not only because of the murder, but because of ruining Yugoslavia’s chances in the Under-21 European Cup. And it’s all thanks to an unknown Chinese man who made a mistake while working on the flair.
It would be great if the only problems we had here in Serbia were like that.

However, there are far more pressing issues on everybody’s minds – like what will we do when we only have six hours of electricity a day this winter, and no gas or oil for heating. Right now, school classes are 30 minutes long (that’s 15 minutes less than before), and it’s not even that cold. So everyone is asking how long they’ll last when it’s below zero degrees in the classroom. Last year, both teachers and students started a general strike but back then at least the state could afford some fuel for it’s power stations and they eventually gave in. Now it would be a wonder if it could get enough power for hospitals and government buildings, never mind classrooms.

The Russians, with their enormous supplies of gas, would like to help. The problem is, the gas pipe is running through Hungary. The Hungarian government asked Yugoslavia to clear up the Danube river, which is blocked by the ruins of bridges destroyed in the bombing, or even let Hungary clear it up free of charge. That way, normal trade routes would be reestablished, and Hungary, along with other Danube countries, would stop loosing a lot of money. However, the Yugoslav government, for an unknown reason, won’t let Hungary do that, and now it’s a stalemate – no money for Hungary, no gas for Yugoslavia (or should I say Serbia). So, everyone is preparing for the winter and the most sought after commodities these days are old-fashioned oil lamps, coal stoves and coal. We are entering the year 2000 like it’s 1900 – just like the computers.