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.
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).
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.
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.