Gravediggers’ convention

Partizan Belgrade are a Goth fan’s delight. They play in an almost all-black kit, nearly all the fans don the colour and for an evening kick-off it’s quite a forbidding first taste once you negotiate the turnstile.

At the ultras’ end in the bowels of the stadium before you reach the terrace, it’s dark, and the ugly concrete features stacks of graffiti. It seems there are several crews – Alcatraz, Shadows, South Crew.

Out on the terrace, the ultras pack together in front of a giant TV screen, one fan stands on a preacher’s pedestal and orchestrates all the chanting tonelessly.photo (3)

He’s wired up to two speakers which are 20 yards behind him, on the other side of the athletics track, facing the fans.

So in effect he’s the imam, calling the faithful to worship. On closer inspection the fans didn’t look as scary as they like to sound. Few scowling skinheads, plenty of young women and from Kula, 150 yards away ,there were about 400 fans who’d made the trip and kept up a decent clamour even after they fell behind.

Appropriately, ugly metal preceded the match on the stadium PA (at half-time it got worse with Boney M belted out).photo (2)

About 4,000 fans made the match which was over as a spectacle by half-time and when it got to 5-0 after 55 minutes I  made a move. It finished 5-2.

Partizan’s pitch has an athletics track around it and that doesn’t help the atmosphere. Neither does the fact that Serbian first division clearly doesn’t capture the public imagination. They call it Super League, but it’s not really that super.photo

As at the Wales game, there were no refreshments and, truth be told, I wouldn’t consider a second visit – OFK’s ground is much more intimate and cosy.

Later, it’s easy to spot Partizan graffiti all over the city – ALCZ is Alcatraz and it’s often got a line through it – Red Star fans presumably.

And, yes, their nickname really is the Gravediggers.

photo (1)

Another fine mess

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One of the more unusual Wales fans’ games  took place some 30 kilometres outside Belgrade yesterday.

Not only did 18 players and spectators get a two-police van escort to the match there and back, but the game officials were all female.

The police over here have been understandably jittery and appear to be on orders from up high to ensure no Welsh fan gets attacked – word is that attacks on a French fan sparked a determination that no more trouble can be tolerated.

And what a refreshing difference the female officials made – there were virtually no sniping comments made to them, not in my earshot anyway. And most decisions were taken with good grace.Female Serbian football officials

Maybe this the way forward for match officials at any level.

On the road, despite being fresh-ish from an 11-2 win last Friday, the team have usually been less effective.

So we’ll quickly gloss over a full account of the 7-1 thrashing to gush about the facilities of a ground seemingly in the back of beyond. FK Srem‘s ground was better than at least one Serbian Premiership ground I’ve been too and the players were very pleased with the quality of the pitch.

For the record, Aberystwyth hotshot Will Johnson scored for his eighth consecutive match for the team and with the Jocks coming up next month, there’s every chance of a ninth scoring game in a row.

* Picture of beauty and the beast (Neil Dymock) courtesy Gary Pritchard