Red ink for Red Star

AS MUCH of Europe settles in for a winter break, the team that can go into the holiday season with a feeling of “job done” is Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda). Serbia’s most popular team has an astonishing 25-point lead at the top of the table after 20 wins from 22 games. But there’s been plenty of activity in Belgrade as Christmas approaches. Red Star have just agreed to sell their most prized asset, midfielder Marko Grujic, to Liverpool for £5.1m. Red Star were in dire need of the cash and appeared keen to push the transfer through as soon … Continue reading Red ink for Red Star

What’s going on in Mittel Europa?

We’re familiar with what’s going on in the big five football leagues: the English Premier; La Liga; the Bundesliga; Serie A and Ligue 1. But what about some of the lower profile competitions, leagues that contains some big names from a more democratic age? There’s no doubt that some familiar names are running the show in many Central European leagues, but there are very few tight battles as some of the leading clubs start to pull away from their respective packs. In Austria, it’s looking like Red Bull Salzburg will clinch their third Bundesliga title in four years. They are … Continue reading What’s going on in Mittel Europa?

A night with the gravediggers

I don’t pretend to know much about the Balkan war or the ongoing debate about Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, but I do know that there is tension. Like many other people, the whole former Yugoslavia thing didn’t really register too much until I visited Croatia and Bosnia and saw the deprivation of the latter amid the pock-marked buildings of Mostar. We look at it from afar, and in ignorance, and given you’re not really part of it, you will never really understand the depth of feeling or the burrowed prejudices and pain that still exists. This is not about politics and … Continue reading A night with the gravediggers

The Red Star doesn’t shine so brightly these days

In the second instalment of our Balkan Trilogy, we look at the last team from Eastern Europe to win the European Cup, Red Star Belgrade. Before Glasnost and the Yugoslav war, teams from the east were difficult opponents. The “crack” eastern European teams used to present a real hurdle in European competition, especially in the away leg, when sorties into the Eastern Bloc were invariably described as a “trip into the unknown”. Clubs like Ferencvaros and Ujpest Dosza (Hungary), CSKA and Levski Sofia (Bulgaria), Rapid Bucharest (Romania), Dukla and Sparta Prague (Czechoslavakia) and of course, East Germany’s Carl Zeiss Jena … Continue reading The Red Star doesn’t shine so brightly these days