The carpet in the clouds – Vozdovac 1 Novi Pazar 0

Finally someone has built a shopping centre that is socially useful.

Trouble is, it’s in Belgrade.

FK Vozdovac – ‘is that the one on top of a shopping centre?’ – yes, it is.

  And they have a lovely dragon on their crest. Some people are suckers for dogs, I’m a sucker for a dragon. It’s a Welsh thing obviously. And this dragon’s lair is in the suburb of the Serbian capital. On top of McDonalds and a lingerie store, among others.

If you hate shopping as much as I do – it’s a form of psychosis in my opinion – then these places are the spawn of Satan and it will be no surprise that the bastards – clearly forced to put a football pitch on the roof – have made it tricky for those who actually want to attend something as low-life, subhuman as a football match.

It’s a shopping centre innit ? They’re gonna make you do things the way that suits them so they can manipulate you like the evil they are. In fact I’m going to asteriskise the phrase because … BECAUSE!

No signs telling you where to get a ticket, for starters, the dastards. I’ll save you 20 minutes walking here – and you’ll need it as it’s a bloody long way up to the carpet in the clouds, the Axminster in the ether, this paradise in the ozone layer. voz

Go to the ground floor info desk in the centre. Tell the girl there she has tickets for the match. “Oh, yes, we do have them,” she said, as if it was a miracle that she’d remembered.

It’s 100 zonks, that’s about 65p. 65p! I’ll write it out. Sixty five of Her Majesty’s pennies. You can probably buy the club for £20. But I forgot to ask about that.

Tracking a ticket down wasn’t easy. It got harder.

Down into the belly of the sh***** c***** via two moving walkways, like you’re at Heathrow.

Past the cobbler, tights franchise and the sofa outlet. Dodge the traffic in the car park, heading for the only visible entrance, which has an Invalidi Vozdovac mural next to it.

Not allowed in. Turns out it’s only for nutters (how could they not have mistaken me for one?).

Steward points over to just outside the car park. He’s the third guy to point me around the place. Like the stewards have a competition between them to point things out to the most number of people.

Man next to a lift. Looks at ticket. Not allowed in. Ooh, that lift looked nice too. Points, obviously, to round the corner. Walk around side of car park.

 Entrance is just up a ramp.

And that’s the easy bit completed.

If you are not fit, you need to think seriously before coming here. Because you might die on the ascent to the ground. Let’s face it, of all the places to slip off this lump of spinning rock, no man wants to die in a sh****** c***** – it would be absolute proof that your life has been a complete emasculated failure. You’d be laughed out of heaven.

You might want to bribe the guy by the lift or fake a leg injury or take a crutch. Seriously, if the ticket is 65 of Her Majesty’s then you can afford quite a big bribe to a bloke guarding a lift.

It’s a long way up and Sherpa Tensing would’ve wanted a bonus if he’d been asked to tackle it.

I’m not much of anything these days but I am fit. It wasn’t easy but it’s a good workout and I imagine that Vozdovac training regime has saved a fortune. Ball skills on the carpet, running is just running up the steps. Believe me there are loads of them. Like, maybe, a zillion.

Mladen Dodic's tantrum was more entertaining than the game
Mladen Dodic’s tantrum in the Novi Pazar dugout was more entertaining than the game
Run up the steps twice in one session, provide sick bags at the top, and that would have been pre-season training sorted for my old team.

Allow at least five minutes for the ascent.

At the top you will be searched by a steward who is watched by a dozen layabout police all looking hard and talking to each other. But they do at least leave you alone and don’t try to throw their weight around.

Serbian football idiocy knows no bounds and why they haven’t been banned from international football is beyond me, so the police presence is understandable. There were maybe 20 stewards and 40-50 cops at the game – and only 250 fans.

I was expecting a medal for reaching the top but there was nothing – not even a cup of tea.

Initiative tests over – and, boy, getting into this was harder than getting a ticket for a couple of World Cup matches I’ve been to – and it was time to settle into the match which had already kicked off.

Virtually no Serbian internationals play in the nation’s Superliga, so there are no star names, no TV gloss and no glamour attached to most matches played.

The standard was watchable because the skill levels are high. The Vozdovac pitch is artificial and that promotes crisp passing.

Vozdovac took the lead early on, nippy Nenad Marinkovic, formerly of Partizan and an ex-under 21 international, skipped past two defenders to net from 12 yards. Good goal. Hopefully the first of many.

But it wasn’t to be. The rest of the first half was a pretty even contest but the second half was grim. 

  Vozdovac are what could be called a ‘1-0’ team. Get ahead and shut down the game. Petty fouls, a Serb speciality, proliferated.

In fact, in football terms, the entertainment provided by the home side is limited – look at their results and 0-0s and 1-0s abound. If they didn’t play in their eagle’s eyrie of a ground then they wouldn’t be worth your time.

What IS worth that 65p, and the throbbing knee joints aggravated by all those stairs, is the view through the red metal grille that encases the ground, and the behaviour of the Invalidi nutcases who are herded behind a net covering one end. I am glad I was refused admission to join them. Forty of them and they appear to have their own personal chaperone for the game once you tot up the attendant stewards and police in their end.

Great effort by Invalidi to sing pretty much all the way through the game, providing all the fan buzz because the atmosphere provided by the non-nutcases in the main stand, was non-existent. 

 Not so great was the one-note tone of all the songs are reduced to, so that Yellow Submarine and Guatanamera sound almost identical. Evidence on the video above. All ditties are stuffed in a blender and emerge a grey, male shouty sludge.

Mladen Dodic, the Novi Pazar coach, prowled the carpet almost within touching distance and had an inexplicable second-half tantrum which proved the highlight of the day.

His torment was ended shortly after and the fans departed swiftly.

Because the stadium is up in the sky and a bit chilly. So thermal long johns and a willy-warmer are highly recommended. Not if you’re female obviously.

So, Vozdovac, an interesting detour if you fancy Belgrade football. As a one-off. Its official name is the Bojan Majic stadium – named, apparently, after a fan murdered ten years ago.

Partizan are grimly gothic, like a metal band masquerading as a football club, Red Star a bit bonkers – OFK would be my recommendation once you’ve got this one out of the way.

It would be great to see 3,000-plus in here for a match, creating some warmth and making it seem less plastic. But, as with sh****** c*****s generally, it is stuck with its unreal ambience. Everything is metal or plastic, shorn of human quirks and touches. Over-designed and practical but soulless.

It’s no stairway to heaven but it tops the novelty ground stakes.

Don’t forget to stop off to buy some socks on the way home.

IMG_3341

*Sh****** C***** photo courtesy of Rhys Hartley

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