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Thursday, 24 August 2023

Hoće li Turska biti hrvatska mahala? (Türkiye Hırvat mahallesi mi olacak?)

Hoće li Turska louse hrvatska mahala?

(Will Türkiye be a Croatian neighborhood?)

16 years ago, a friendly match was played between Bosnia and Croatia in Sarajevo, and throughout the match, Bosnian fans chanted a slogan to anger the Croats: "Zagreb će biti Turska mahala" (Zagreb will be a Turkish quarter)

When I saw the fridge magnets embroidered with the Croatian flag on the map of Turkey on Twitter, that match came to my mind.

Of course, there is no point in producing conspiratorial theories. There must have been some confusion at the factory in China, where all the magnets are made. But here are some Balkan issues 

The article I shared about my match impressions 16 years ago is here.

Saturday, 3 December 2022


Željezničar – Konyaspor

Stadium: Grbavica / Sarajevo

Time: November 29, 2022 – 18.00

I haven't posted on this blog for a long time. The reason why I opened this page in 2007 was to create a medium where I could write comfortably by going out of the academy from time to time during my doctoral dissertation study on "Football support in Sarajevo". For a while, Turkey was always matched with Bosnia and Herzegovina in the same qualifying groups, and the articles on the blog mostly focused on the national team of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In other words, the axis of the blog had inadvertently shifted from the Bosnian league to the national team of Bosnia. After that, I completely distanced myself from the subject and my interest in Bosnian football decreased to the level of one or two games a year.

Fortunately, I was in Sarajevo in the most important matches of the last 10 years. I was in Grbavica for the first night game on 22 April 2009 after the reconstruction of the war-torn lighting system. On April 1, 2017, I was at the stadium in the first match of the newly constructed Grbavica's East Stand (Istok). I won't make any promises, but I can share a few notes on these matches later. As far as I remember…

Unfortunately, I could not attend Željezničar's 100th Anniversary celebrations last year. I had to content myself with staring at the lights of Grbavica with sad eyes as I grappled with the scourge of Covid at home.

Grbavica through my window.

There have been some developments lately that has made me refocus on Bosnian football culture. At the end of the summer, a message came from Tanıl Bora, editör of the respected social sciences periodical Toplum ve Bilim (Society and Science): “Would you write something about the World Cup in Qatar?” Of course, I could not refuse it. Thus began the process that allowed me to take “football culture” seriously again. At the end of September, I prepared an online presentation on “Bosnian women's football” at a conference in Zagreb. When I announced this on social media, a few friends encouraged me to restart my studies on Bosnian football.

It has been almost 15 years since I finished my one-year field research for my thesis, and when I look back, I realized that Bosnian football culture did not take a lot attendance in the meanwhile by other scholars. I thought that it would not be bad to focus on the subject again. Moreover, this time, I do not have an obligation such as a "thesis".

After spending almost the entire Fall in Turkey, coming back to Sarajevo I decided to renew my enthusiasm for Bosnian football culture as soon as I arrived.

While looking at my social media accounts, I came across an announcement from Željezničar's official Twitter account: There was a friendly match against Konyaspor on November 29. Here is the opportunity to start my field research again!

After 15 years, I took the road to Grbavica again as an ethnographer. In fact, I have been to Grbavica several times during this period. After all, it is the team of my neighborhood…

My first match in Grbavica and the first photos I have taken for the fieldwork.

The match with Konyaspor is Željo's fourth match against a Turkish team, and all four matches are friendly. They played their first match against Adana Demirspor (Railway workers’ club of Adana) in 1953 and won 4-1. Long live the brotherhood of railway workers! In the summer of 1965, they went on a tour to Istanbul and drew 0-0 with Galatasaray and defeated Beşiktaş 1-0. In the previous evening's match, they lost 2-1 to Konyaspor.

In the first minutes of the match, it was obvious that the football players from Konyaspor had a very weak relationship with the slippery ground. The temperature, which reached 2 Celsius at the time of the match, pointed to the "hidden icing" and the football players of Konyaspor were constantly slipping and falling. I was thinking: “Oh guys, did you come from Antalya?” as Konya is also known to be under effect of continental climate with freezing temperatures in winter. However, they recovered quickly as and found their first serious goal-posting in the seventh minute. Just after, in the eighth minute, Konya scored the first goal with Iche Ikpeazu. In the ninth minute, Željo's Brazilian Santos dribbled well from the left, but his last shot was bad. In the 11th minute, with Croatian player Pavicic’s goal, Konya doubled the lead. Željo responded with Haydarevic in the 21st minute. You can watch how interesting this goal is in the 14-minute video shared on Željezničar's official Youtube account.

The remaining 70 minutes of the game, especially the last half hour, were terribly boring. The cold and misty weather may have also been effective. Although there was movement in the last minutes, it was not enough to warm either the players or us, who were about to freeze in the stands. The referee was merciful and finished the match exactly in the 90th minute. Without adding one single second as extra time…

Maybe it wasn't a very bright match for football, except for the first 20 minutes, but there were emotional and beautiful moments. Two Bosnian players of Konyaspor, İbrahim Şehiç and Amir Hacıahmetovic, got plenty of applause and cheers from the stands as they left the game. Şehiç and Hacıahmetovic, who took the first steps of their football careers in Grbavica, were announced as "children of Željo". Born in 1997 in Denmark, Hadziahmetovic started playing football in Nexo and spent seven years in Željo between 2009 and 2016. He has been on the A team for the last two years. The goalkeeper Şehic, born in 1988, started football in Željo and played in Željo between 2007-2011. Hacıahmetovic was in the champion squad in 2009/10 and Şehic in 2014/15.

What about the fans?

As I mentioned above, during my fieldwork in 2007, with one exception, I watched all the matches in Grbavica with Željo's legendary fan group Manijaci (Maniacs) in the south stand (Jug). Actually, “I watched the matches” would be a misnomer. It would be more accurate to say that I watched the ones who are watching the matches. The only exception was the match when Manijaci watched in the north stand (Sjever) due to the snow in the south stands.

After I submitted my thesis, as a family man, I watched it in Sjever with middle-aged audiences called “pabuçari”, that is, “slippers”. Since I started field research again, I had to return to Jug. Jug had about 100 fans in all. I toured the terraces a few times but couldn't meet any of the old fans. The main fan base was in İstok, the newly opened eastern tribune. Maybe the fans who were in Jug 15 years ago preferred Istok, whereas they get older, they are less rough-and-tumble. It is necessary to experience Istok in the upcoming matches.

The newly constructed Istok (East) terraces.

Of course, the performance of the fans was quite low due to the friendly match. Before the start of the match, there was a nice ambiance while the famous song of Tifa, Željezničar's trademark "Grbavica", was played on the loudspeakers of the stadium, but Grbavica was almost silent throughout the match.

If you want to listen "Grbavica" from Tifa:

In the meantime, about ten fans of Konyaspor in Zapad (West) tribune, and about 20 in Istok, attracted my attention. They were probably Turkish students in Sarajevo.

It is quite difficult for me to acceot that this heroic locomotive symbolizing Zeljo is dumped outside of the stadium.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

3 + 1 Articles on Bosnian National Squad and Football Fans

After last night's Nigeria-Bosnia match, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a farewell to Brasil 2014. For Bosnia, the match against Iran will not be more than a struggle for prestige. In this circumstance, we have more time to read about Bosnian football culture, than watching the games.

In June, three articles are published about Bosnian football and the fans of the Bosnian national football team. 

Simon Kuper's article published in June 6, 2014 in Fiancial Times titled "Bosnia and Herzegovina's World Cup Debut" is the first one. In the article, Kuper does not have a claim to discover something new about football in Bosnia. But, having been stayed in Bosnia to work on this article, he just transmits the Bosnian reality through his eyes. Without doubt, it is a great joy to read Bosnian football from the writer of "Football Against Enemy", the legendary masterpiece on sociology of football. 

It is known that, the person who only knows about football, in fact does not know anything football. That is why Kuper's articles are that enjoyable to read and they are that brain blooming: Because his point of interest is not only football. Indeed, when he was in Sarajevo, he wrote one more article titled "Sarajevo: The Crossroads of History" about the 100th anniversary of Ferdinand's assasin, which was the reason to start the First World War.

This is the article, by which I mean as +1 in the headline of this blog entry.

The second article is written by a young journalist: Fatih Saboviç. As can be understood from his surname, he is of Bosnian origin living in Turkey. He wrote an article titled: "Boşnak, Hırvat, Sırp Omuz Omuza" (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats are Shoulder to Shoulder) relying on an interview he did with the leader of Bh Fanticos. The article is in Turkish and was published in Hürriyet daily newspaper one day before Nigeria-Bosnia match, June 20, 2014. Like Kuper, Fatih is also interested in many other issues apart from football as well and a young journalist around 23-24 years old, which would be nice to keep an eye on. 
Despite his young age, the codes of ethics of journalism that he respects, his maturity in his vacational professionlism and moreover his standpoint in life makes him better than many of those who are regarded as masters of sports journalism in Turkey. This interview was based on intelligent questions, with cleverly put outcomes. 

The only thing I oppose in this article is the title. Only in a small part of the interview, Sanin Kariç, the leader of BH Fanaticos menitons about his will more than the reality: "Croats and Serbs in Bosnia are also with us.. We all cosntruct a united power". And it was carried to the headline by the ediotr of the newspaper. 

The third article examines the issue from an opposite point of view. In fact, more than describing the current situation it seeks to find reasons about why the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats do not support the Bosnian national football team. The article written by me, titled "Perception of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Qualification to World Cup 2014" was published last week in the latest issue of Sportmont, the journal of the Montenegrin Academy of Sports.

I had writtten a blog entry about my visit to Podgorica last May. Although I could not take attention of Genclerbirligi club management for the trasnfer of Stefan Magusa, at least I managed to write an acadamic article.

I think, those who are interested in Bosnian football culture will enjoy reading those articles..

Saturday, 21 June 2014


In February 2006, when it was the first time for me to be in Sarajevo, I was a bit amazed when I saw the crowd on the streets of Sarajevo, despite the freezing cold. Around midnight, when I went out to eat something, this time I was surprised that the streets were almost totally empty, opposite to what I have seen only two hours ago! 

After some time I spent in Sarajevo, I have seen that the night life in Sarajevo is not surviving on “territorial” basis, but on some special points. In other words, the streets may be empty, but certain pubs hidden in a silent street or under a building can be a good host for those who want to enjoy the night life in Sarajevo.

This is a “football blog” and I will surely not talk about night life in Sarajevo. However, football became a part of night life in Sarajevo where the matches start in midnight.

…and an anecdote:

Year: 1986. The World Cup is organized in Mexico. The one when we could watch Valdano, Igor Balnov, Butragueno, Rummenige, where Gary Lineker was the top goal scorer and Maradona scored by the help of God’s hand. Mexico is not in the southern hemisphere like Brazil is. In mid-June, the matches were played under the hell shining sun of Mexico. But we, or better to say, our fathers, could watch the games in the chilly nights. Some matches were starting at 01:00 and it was not that easy for a kid to watch the games, whose mother is a primary school teacher.

But, in the middle of the night somebody pokes you when you are sleeping: “Dirim, wake up. There is the match of Platini…” While murmuring and rubbing the eyes a critical warning comes from dad: “Ssshhh. Be silent. If you mother will wake up, she will settle our hash.” My dad could not allow his son to miss his favourite player’s matches…

The concepts of “World Cup” and “watching the match in the midnight” have not been far away for my perception. I also remember that we were forced to match early in the morning, with semi-sleeping eyes during the World Cup 2002 in Japan-Korea, and therefore, I always prefer to watch a match in the midnight instead of early in the morning, relying on my experiences.

Cinema Kriterion, which was opened three years ago in Sarajevo, and soon became a point of attraction by intellectuals and artists, organized an activity. Before the match, one episode of the documentary “Football Rebels” would be shown which is about Predrag Pasic, an ex-player of Yugoslav National Team and recognized by his football school Bubamara for children whom he opened during the war when the city was under the rain of shells. After the documentary show, Predrag Pasic was there to reply the questions of the audience. After this activity, there was the live match broadcast on cinema screen.

I had to be there…

A short description of the place for those who have been in Sarajevo, or who will soon visit here: Kriterion is by Miljacka River. Just 50 meters to Dom Syndikata (for those who know; the place where there was my wedding), on the opposite side of the Greek embassy. Visit there when you come. Enjoy a beer.
I enjoyed the documentary film. More enjoyable was to meet with Predrag Pasic.
Kriterion and Worl Cup Beer Special
Small draft beer: 2 KM
Big draft beer: 3 KM

First 15 minutes of the match:
Pan Beer + Rakija: 2.5 KM
Tuborg Beer ++ Rakija: 3,5 KM

After every goal of our team: Reneval of the drinks, on the house.

After the documentary film, the cinema saloon began to be crowded. Kriterion was ready for the match, not with the crowd, but with the offers as well. In the first 15 minutes of the match, a beer and a rakija were for 2.5 KM (1.25 Euros). Moreover, renewal of the drinks is free after Bosnia’s each goal.

A betting table was prepared on the blackboard before the match. I suppose Marko had his free beer after his correct guess.

I betted for 0-0. I was thinking that strong teams like Argentina would prefer to have a wary start for the tournament and so would be Bosnia as well, playing their first match in World Cup. So was I as well. I learned to be wary since I guessed 7-0 victory for Bosnia against Turkey, four years ago in a TV show in Turkey and I decided to bet for a modest record.

However, I managed to be subject to reactions when I was writing my bet. Bosnians neither would like to talk about a defeat, nor about a draw. The cars and fireworks were ready in Sarajevo for celebrating Bosnia’s victory against Argentina.

Some say “Bosnia needs a success”. They believe that a success of Bosnian national team in World Cup may change the bad luck of this country. There are those who believe that a Bosnian Croats or Bosnian Serbs may begin to support Bosnian national team, and a belief on unity of the country may revive thanks to a success in football. I am not that much optimistic about it. Recently I have written an article about this and it is just published in Sportmont, the journal of Montenegrin Academy of Sports. Soon, I will load the article in my blog.

Predrag Pasic, the experienced football player, an experienced intellectual and an experienced citizen of Sarajevo, expressed his pessimism and claimed that unless the problems in political sphere are solved, it would be a dream to expect that Bosnian Croats or Bosnian Muslims would support Bosnian national team.
It also has to be noted that the first eleven of Bosnian squad was all Bosnian Muslim, except Zvijezdan Misimovic.

Just at the beginning of the match, the silence covered the souls in the cinema when the Schalke 04’s young left wing defender, who decided to Bosnian national rejecting the offer from German national team, Kolasinac scored an own goal. The smoke from the cigarettes in the cinema rose from the disappointed Bosnians. Yes, here is Bosnia and we watch the match in cinema with beers and cigarettes.
Despite the early goal, Bosnia does not give up. They exhibit the beauties of Yugoslav football with elegant offensive faults, with nice ankle movements, and with short, rapid and direct passes. But they are not lucky to score. Statistics of the match show that as well. The number of shots on goal and shots on target of Bosnian squad is more than that of Argentina. On the other side, they lose a lot of passes especially when the team is on attack.

The potential stars of the match were also silent. Dzeko was marked man-to-man quite well. And Messi was even marked by three defenders from time to time. Another young star of Bosnia; Muhammed Besic, who was born in Berlin in 1992, and currently playing for Ferencvaros, was like the shadow of Messi during the whole match. It is even rumored that they saw Besic just in front of the door of Messi’s room in the hotel after the match, waiting for him to go out.
Obala Naba Kulina street and Kriterion behind during the half time of the match.

There was a very good game in the first half an hour. But it began to be a bit boring afterwards. I went out to have fresh air next to Miljacka in the half time. Obala Bana Kulina was almost empty and only a few cars were passing on Sarajevo’s one of the main streets, which was opposite to the scene just before the match.
In the second half, Messi proved his talents and scored the second goal of Argentina at 65th. I personally had hopes for Bosnia but drowsiness was settled on Bosnian squad. In the last five minutes, they woke up from their sleep and a veteran player, Vedad Ibisevic scored at 85, increasing the hopes as well. But a second goal did not follow.

I witnessed something in Sarajevo after the match, which I have never seen before: Traffic jam at 2 am!

However, we reserve our hedonist attitudes for a victory against Nigeria for tonight!

The working paper that I submitted to FREE Research Conference in Wien in October

In October 25th and 26th, 2013, a conference titled "Identities" as a part of FREE - Football Research in an Enlarged Europe was organized in Vienna.

I have presented a paper about my PhD research, and it is published as a "working paper". The paper can be regarded as a short summary of my PhD thesis titled; "Football Fandom and Formation of
Cultural Differences in Bosnia: A Comparative Ethnographic Study on FK Željezničar and FK Sarajevo Fans in Sarajevo". If you want to read it, please click HERE.

And please visit HERE to see other working papers not only submitted in the conference in Vienna, but also includes those which were presented in the four other conferences as a part of FREE project.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

FK MLADOST PODGORICA (ex: OFK Titograd, or ex: FK Mladost Titograd)

(April 5, 2014 – Podgorica)

FK Mladost is not a team from Bosnia, but from Montenegro. However, I believe that those who are interested in Bosnian football culture would also enjoy reading something about football in Montenegro. Apparently, both countries have common political, historical and cultural traits, and having a common Yugoslav past is one of the important junctions where both countries share similar patterns in football culture.
Çemovsko Polje and the surrounding Dinaric Alps.
When compared with the scale of the country, Montenegro has a relatively successful national football team. They ranked at 3rd place behind England and Ukraine in FIFA 2014 qualifying group chalking up a total 15 points. The other teams in the group were Poland, Moldova and San Marino. On the other side Montenegrin football league is considered as one of the low quality one according to UEFA ranking where they stand at 42nd place above Liechtenstein and below Iceland. But they are a bit better this season, since they were at 43rd place last year.
Years ago, Botaşspor from Adana (Southern Turkey) the sports club of the Iraq-Turkey crude petrol pipeline company, which was quite famous with Women Basketball Team, where I also was a licensed swimmer for a while, decided to establish a football club. As was the case for the female basketball team, the first players of the football team were the children of the employees of the company. Although we moved from Adana to Ankara in 1987, I used to keep on spending overall one month of a year as part of my winter and summer holidays in Adana, in Botaş. Like any other teenager, I was playing football with my friends just before the sunset, when the Mediterranean sun was just to lose its sharpness. From time to time, we used to watch the training matches of Botaşspor.

There was a player in the team. Let’s keep his name anonymous and use a nick name: Orhan. Orhan was a good player; he was playing with his heart. But his passion was causing him to leave his territory from time to time which was making the trainer a bit mad about it. Trainer calls him: “Orhan!” Orhan does not hear. Trainer increases his voice: “Orhaaan!” No reply from Orhan. Trainer calls him with his voice at optimum level: “ORHAAAAAN, to whom I am calling hah?!” Finally, Orhan turns his face to trainer: “What the!” Surely, an unexpected reply from the player which makes the spectators to laugh a lot, and trainer is unsurprisingly calm: “You will see the”.

After many years, a similar scene in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro takes me to the memories…
FK Mogren Budva is playing against the team of the capital city; FK Mladost Podgorica. The defender right wing player of Mogren is a handsome young man. He does not play bad. His timing in interference, his sense of keeping ground is quite well but he just looks a little bit unserious. His hand is always on his shorts, pulling it down in search for following low-hip fashion trend. His levity makes the trainer mad. Trainer calls him: “Jovane”. Jovan does not hear. Trainer increases his voice: “Jovaneeee!” No reply from Jovan. Trainer calls him with his voice at optimum level: “JOVANEEEEEEE?!” Finally, Jovan turns his face to trainer: “Jebote Jovane.” ( your Jovan) We laugh in the rows and the trainer silently goes back to benches.

Mogren was leading the match 1-0 away when this anecdote appeared, which took me to memories. However, at the end Mogren lost 3-2 and I do not have an idea what kind of communication occurred between Jovan and trainer in the dressing room.
Geographical location of Montenegro and the mountains topography of the country.
Montenegro is a small country. Just about 13 thousand square kilometers. But distances are far. Deserving the name, Montenegro is surrounded by high and sharp rocky mountains.

When I left Sarajevo ahead to Podgorica, to attend the conference organized by Montenegrin Academy of Sports, ( I already had a pre-vision that it would be a journey that would stem some nostalgic memories. One night before, when I checked the web site of the bus company I was quite surprised that O303 Mercedes buses, which were produced in early 1990’s in Turkey were still in charge in intercity roads, even in inter-national routes.

When I was in the bus station in the morning, another surprise was waiting for me. I would not be travelling to Podgorica from Sarajevo by a bus, but by a midibus for seven hours! The midibus was one of the first exemplars of Iveco which were produced by Otoyol in Turkey in 1990’s.

Since for a long time I do not calculate the distances in Balkans in terms of kilometers. If so, then it is very likely that you may face some small surprises. You have to take notice on duration of the travel rather than the distance. Then, for example, the 250 kilometers of travel which will take seven hours will not make you to be psychologically tired of travelling. It is not only the vehicle which makes the duration longer, but also the topography. Montenegro really deserves her name and curvy road through the sharp mountains is not an exception. But what a panoramic view!

On the contrary to general topography of Montenegro, Podgorica was established on a plain. The name Podgorica means “Down the Mount Gorica”. Podgorica is located a flat plain, but surrounded by mountains.

Road to Podgorica from Sarajevo by the bench of River Piva.
One of the numerous tunnels on the road.

The population of Podgorica is almost 170 thousands. But it is a capital city! According to tourist guides, it is a waste of time to visit Podgorica. Indeed, the city was not of importance before Tito Era, with a population of 10-15 thousands. The city’s population had dramatically increased in Tito era, while the city’s name was replaced to Titograd; City of Tito.

Podgorica stays under the shadow of Montenegro’s tourist attracted historical cities on the coast like Budva, Kotor, and Herceg Novi. Podgorica does not have a coast, the night life is stagnant and the life is without any spirit after 23:00 and for sure, only one from Ankara, which shares the same attributions, may enjoy Podgorica.

Podgorica should be loved. If one wants to claim that he/she has been in Montenegro, he/she has to visit Podgorica. Moreover, he/she should make a journey through those mountains to Serbia or to Bosnia, preferably with those outdated buses. Only than he/she can claim that he/she has been in Podgorica.
The University of Montenegro arranged a tour in the last day of the symposium to a historical monastery about 15 kilometers to the city center. Some colleagues did not want to miss the opportunity to visit the historical temple. What a coincidence that, at that time there was a football match in Podgorica as well. Certainly, the temple of a football fan is not a monastery! To be honest, I have to confess that I had a dilemma between going to the football match, and going to that historical monastery. The other day, I have realized that experiencing a city in my case began to be limited only to experience the gastronomic and footballist affluences. I am slightly considering making a change. Probably it would be easier for me to retreat from different tastes but footbalism is a difficult to be treated sickness. That, frankly speaking, even before leaving from Sarajevo I took the notes about matches to be played in Montenegro, and I have to confess that it was not coincidence.

While my colleagues were on the way to the historical monastery, I was already in Çemovsko Polje (Çemovsko plain), which also known as the Stari Aerodrom (old airport). 

Montenegrin First League involves 12 teams. FK Mladost Podgorica is the 10th on the table with 23 points, and will play against FK Mogren Budva 11th on the table with 22 points. The other team of the capital city; FK Buduçnost will have an away match against Rudar Pljevlija, a team from Sandjak region on the North of Montenegro. Rudar means “miner” which already evokes sympathy. Pljevlija is also like the homeland of my wife’s father’s side. 

Buduçnost is the leading team of Podgorica. They do not play their matches in plain or on meadow, but in the biggest stadium of the city; “Podgorica Stadium”. In fact, Buduçnost have always been supported by the city elites. I do not know if they have got a story of being promoted to a higher league by military regime but they always had more fans than Mladost. (1) The colors of the team are navy blue and white. If it would be yellow instead of white, it would be more ironical. The “other” team has the red color. (2) The more striking fact is the name of the team with the red color: Mladost Podgorica means Youth of Podgorica, also resembles that of Gençlerbirliği, which literally means Union of Juvenile or Union of Youth. Is it possible that a man from Ankara, a fan of Gençlerbirliği will not have some passion towards that team?

Next to the 1500 capacity stadium of Mladost in Çemovsko Polje, there is the management building and training field of Buduçnost.

The rows are not full just before the match. There are around 150 fans that came to watch the match in a rainy day.

Mladost playing against Mogren. Behin the pitch the administrative building of Buducnost on the left, and their training fild behind, and Mladost's administrative building on the right.

FK Mladost was established in 1950 with the name FK Mladost Titograd. The name was changed into OFK Titograd (Olympic Football Club) in 1960. In 1990, the name was turned into Mladost again. But this time the name Titograd was replaced with Podgorica due to change in city’s name. The biggest success of Mladost in Yugoslav Football League was a fourth rank in the second division in 1956-57. Mladost’s history is the story of relegations to third division, and promotion to second division. During Miloşeviç’s Yugoslavia, when only the teams from Serbia and Montenegro participated in the Yugoslav league, they succeeded to be fourth in the second division twice during the last two seasons. 

Since Montenegro became independent in 2006, their biggest success was to be the fifth rank in 2010-11, but it has to be noticed that in even the miniature Montenegrin football league, they have played in second division for two years.

This season have historical contributions to the club’s history: For the first time in history, Mladost participated in European cups. They have passed Hungarian Videoton after the first qualification matches, and Slovakian FK Senica after the second qualification matches of the UEFA Europa League. But in the third qualification, they have crashed into Spain’s famous Sevilla after 6-1 home and 3-0 away defeats. This season, FK Mladost Podgorica struggles not to be relegated to the second division of Montenegro.

In this context, the match Mogren and Mladost is a match for “6 points”. If they will lose, Mogren will be two points above Mladost. If not, than the difference between two teams will increase to five points which will be a great advantage for Mladost.

Wandering around the club’s building, I meet with a veteran player of Mladost. I had a short football chat with him. I asked him about the hero of my teenager years; Dejan Saviçeviç. The legendary player of legendary Red Star who won the UEFA Cup in 1991, who has been the chairman of the Montenegrin Football Association since the independency of Montenegro. I was trembled when I heard that Dejan Saviçeviç would come to watch the match the match since his son is playing for Mladost. How is it possible not to tremble! Is it possible to forget a legendary player who was first playing in Red Star and then in Milan, and the reason behind my choice to be manager of Milan in the earliest versions of the “Championship Manager”? How delightful would it be to meet with him after years!

The famous driblings of the legendary Savicevic:

The unforgettable part of the interview with Savicevic in Zagreb:

As soon as I had the information, I went to VIP section. I will do my best to meet with Savicevic. It was not that much difficult to enter in the VIP section. A club officer on duty asked me:”Where are you going?” Relying on the sympathy of speaking his language as a foreigner, I asked him if I could watch the match in VIP since it is raining and it is the only covered part of the stadium. He asks where I was from, and I replied: “I am Turkish but I live in Sarajevo”. Probably it is not very common to see some Turks coming to visit to watch a match of Mladost. He turns to VIP tribune and asks the oldies in the tribune if there is a place for a Turk. The VIP tribune, almost full of elder fans is a bit surprised but yet hospitable. They even gave me a piece of newspaper to put over the seat. What a VIP tribune! I feel almost like among the “ihtiyarlar” (oldies) in Gençlerbirliği tribunes. I seat in between footballcholic oldies which are like our Hamdi Reis, Necdet Abi and Ozan Abi.  
The "oldies" in Mladost tribune.

...and our oldies.
Before coming to the match I have had a basic research about Mladost in web and learned that the fans of Mladost call themselves “Romanticari” (Romantics). I asked to one of the oldies if he is “romantic”. The reply is simple and clear: “I do not know, ask it to my wife”.

Oldies are a bit curious about me. It can be considered as a normal act to visit Podgorica for a symposium, but it was quite difficult for me to convince them that the one and only aim of mine to come to Çemovsko Polje in a rainy day is to watch a match. They are quite stubborn to assume that I am a scout. I somehow managed to tell the truth in difficulty. In the meantime, rain quites down and the rows on the left and right side of the VIP section begin to welcome fans. It seems the 150-200 fans overall do not enjoy disturbing the football players. They are so calm during the match. 

Maybe they do not like to cheer for the team, but they watched the game with an optimum attention during the whole match. Different than what I usually do, instead of watching the fans, I decide to watch the game on the pitch.

During the first quarter of the match, Mogren seemed to be more effective. The Yugoslav school of football could heavily be felt. Both of the teams prefer to make short passes in their own side of the pitch and try to aim goal with long, side balls and whenever they lose the ball in those attacks, they do not hesitate to make Yugoslav fault. Despite the position in the European ranking, both teams perform a very tough game, but still in a virtuous style. The young players from both of the teams play not only with their muscles, but also with their brains and with their hearts. However, Mogren players seem to be a bit more willing. I get the information that Mogren club could not pay the salaries of football players for a long time, since the club passes through serious financial problems

Mogren players were able to use the ball with vertical and cross passes in their own half of the pitch. Since they realized that Mladost players were not as willing as they are, they began to organize the game closer to the midfield, going forward as a block. The left wing defender Luka Pejovic, with the dress number 16 was a key player for the fast attacks. In fact he is one of the most experienced players in the team: 29 years old and has a national squad experience in his career.

Although Mogren was more effective in the first half of the game, the player of Mladost with the dress number 9 began to take my attention as well. During rare attacks of Mladost, this young man creates serious problems alone for Mogren defense. I got some information from the fans about him that his name is Stefan Mugoşa and he is recognized as the best player in the squad. The 22 years old Mugoşa have 5 appearances in U-21 squad of the Montenegrin national football team, scoring 3 goals. (3) He took part in the squad of Montenegrin national football team as a substitute when Montenegro lost 2-5 against Moldova at home on October 15, 2013. Mugoşa plays as an attacking midfielder and takes attention with his self-confident, modest posture. I have learned that Red Star is keeping an eye on him, but it is also know that the Belgrade team also has serious financial problems.

Stefan Mugosa:

Another player who takes my attention in Mladost is Radule Zivkovic whose dress number is 2 and reminds me legendary right wing defender of Beşiktaş; Recep Çetin aka Takoz (chock) Recep who was the best right wing defender in his time and he was recognized by his tough tackles which would not allow left wing attackers to pass him. Like Takoz Recep, Zivkovic does not hesitate to send the ball as far as possible by kicking the bottom part of the ball and his strong posture with relatively short height and wide chest with a similar appearance to those Irish boxers reminds him more like Takoz Recep.

Vladimir Savicevic, the son of legendary player Dejan Savicevic, with dress number 10 is at the focus of Mladost fans. I am curious if he is playing in the team because he has talent, or is it thanks to his father. Fans claim that he is really good, but I could not witness it during the match.

Mogren had a rapid start in the second half of the game. By 56th minute they were just to score the first goal of the match. Just two minutes after that they found it by Milan Durisic. They even missed a very close goal. After the goal, Mogren players show signs to be exhausted or not any more willing.

Until then, the right wing defender of Mogren with dress number 15 was also taking attention with his performance. He has a very good timing and he is very good in sweeping the ball from his zone. His name is Jovan Baoşiç, whom I have quoted above his reply to the trainer of the team. Although he was playing well, minutes passing by, he loses his seriousness in the game. He is just 19 years old, at the beginning of his career, but since he loses his seriousness, his performance in the game declines. And during the last half an hour of the game, the left wing for Mladost attackers turns to be a free-to-pass corridor. The trainer of the team asks him: “Jovane, hoçeş li kafu?” means “Jovan, do you want a coffee?”

Sun shows its face in the second half and had a vitalizing effect on the players, but it seems that it has only affected Mladost players. Finally by the 72nd minute Mugoşa, the star of Mladost denests the ball among two Mogren defenders and scores with a nice short drop shot into the net.  Just 6 minutes after that goal, he scores one more with a head kick to a cross coming from the right wing and  shows that 189 centimeter tall Mugoşa is also not bad with high balls. It is now 2-1.

Mogren is under shock, but it is not enough. Just one minute after this goal, Mugoşa scores one more and reaches hat-trick within 7 minutes and carries his team to 3-1 from 0-1. The man of the game Mugoşa scored three goals, but it seems he does not lose anything from his posture, goes on playing serious and keeps his modesty. On the other side, it is visible that his stamina is not that good.
In 90+2, Durisic, the scorer player of Mogren scores for his team but it is too much late to turn the game, which results with a 3-2 victory for the home team Mladost.

My biggest expectation from the match was not realized. Probably, because of the rainy weather, Dejan Savicevic did not come to watch the game, but my heart begins to beat for another team from Balkans. Moreover, in this small country, I had the joy to watch the match with a handful of nice and kind people who are in love with a modest team.
PS 1) This ironic paragraph refers to rivalry between Gençlerbirliği and Ankaragücü in Turkey’s capital city. Gençlerbirliği had always been a smaller club with less fan support and Ankaragücü has always been more popular club of the city. Military regime’s efforts to promote Ankaragücü to the top league in Turkey have also to be noticed to perceive the irony behind those sentences.

PS 2) Refers to the colors of Ankaragücü which are yellow and navy blue, and Gençlerbirliği has black-red.

PS 3) During the days when I was writing this article, Tanıl Bora, a significant intellectual in Turkey, who writes every Tuesday to Turkish daily newspaper Radikal about football, wrote an article titled: “Establish a team, with less Scorpio, and more Cancer” about the relationship between astrology and football. A quotation from the article: “The squad of Gençlerbirliği is full of Pisces (Ahmet, Gosso, Nizamettin, Petroviç, Yusuf Emre). Diagnosis for those Pisces who play in their position: A type of a player who can do any job which is needed, can be a multidirectional player, or can get lost if he will not able to find his position”

Maguşa’s birthdate is February 26, 1992. A Pisces. I do not believe in astrology, but would be good for those who believe in astrology to know that.

PS 4) When I was writing this article, Mladost and Mogren played again in Podgorica on April 9, 2014 for the first leg of the semi-final of the Montenegrin Cup and Mladost was victorious again with 2-0. One of the goals was from Mugoşa.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Last week, just after the leave of Carvalhal from Beşiktaş when the Turkish newspapers mentioned about a probable transfer of Slaven Bilic, I immediately checked the Croatian newspapers to check the rumors. As well known, when the issue is about “transfer” or media is more likely to publish fantastic fictive stories than real news. However, the rumors were verified by Croatian newspapers as well, that Biliç had declared he might think about joining Beşiktaş, following the European Football Championship.

 I have a sort of sympathy to Slaven Biliç, since I used a photo of him for an article in this blog that I have written just after the Turkey-Croatia match in Wien in 2008. For some reason, the sorrow in Biliç’s face, and his attempts to solace the tear drops of his footballers seemed to be very ingenuous to me. After the loss of Croatia by penalty kicks, Biliç’s attempts to solace his players like a brother was noticed very clearly. Like a brother, but not like a godfather, which is the usual visage that we, Turkish football fans are familiar to see on Turkish trainers?
Three years after, almost five and a half months before now, when Turkey and Croatia were rooted in play-off match for the European Football Championship, referring to what I have written previosly in my blog, I wrote another article relying on a review of Turkish and Croatian newspapers.
I came up with an interesting thing: Turkish newspapers were mentioning about Croats fear of this draw because of their unforgettable unpleasant experience in 2008. When I checked the newspapers from Croatia, I have seen the cheers for “revenge” and I have seen how they were happy to have the opportunity for the revenge after three years. Among this atmosphere of revenge, Slaven Biliç was distinguished with his speeches free of any hatred discourse. He was mentioning the quality of Turkish team, but emphasizing that Croatia was a better team. He even had uttered the opportunity to take the revenge but even that was not enough for the Croatian media who blamed him to be coward. However, the cool speech of Biliç away from a hatred discourse made my sympathy towards him to increase.
When I checked his career, I have seen that I was not wrong about my views on Biliç. The young trainer, who was born in 1968 was shined when he was playing as a defender in Hajduk Split, in the most brilliant era of Yugoslav football. He was transferred to Karlsruhe with a transfer fee of 750.000 Pounds. After a successful three years experience in Karlsruhe, he had gone to West Ham United with a transfer fee of 1.3 million Pounds. When West Ham was struggling not to relegate, he was offered a transfer of 4.5 million Pounds to Everton. However, he refused this offer until August mentioning that he could not leave his team in the middle of the season.   
They say, “One who only claims to know football, does not know football either.” Biliç, a graduate of Faculty of Law, who plays in rock groups from time to time, has a distinct character who does not limit his life with football. Thus,  his vision of football goes beyond imagination of many others. Unlike the Croatian nationalist leader Franjo Tudjman who stated that the football victories, like wars do shape the identity of a nation, Biliç has a different perspective on football. He is aware of football’s character as a game, as a part of entertainment and just before the 2008 European Football Championship, he said: “With the greatest respect to women, football is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Football has a vital role in shaping the Croatian national identity. Croatia can be regarded as one of the countries where football is exploited widely by extreme nationalism. Within this occasion, even his endeavor to be away from heroic statements is itself is a positive attitude. Does it mean that Biliç may not be nationalist? Obviously not. But at least we cannot get the reply of question through his statements. Considering what kind of a nationalist pressure are those trainers of national football teams, I think this is an essential feature of him.  
Personally, as afan of Gençlerbirliği, I would be pleasant to see that kind of man to be the trainer of my own team, who pays importance on the beauty of the game. I cannot hide my jealousity when I heard the rumors on a probable move of Biliç to Beşiktaş. For sure, we cannot predict what kind of surprises are likely to wait for Biliç in a team who made trouble with many top-quality trainers. Probably, Biliç would be thinking twice before a move to a team who is likely to cancel contracts with some high quality –and expensive- players, who is struggling with financial crisis and thus who is likely to avoid expensive transfers.
But, apparently Biliç seems to be magnified by Istanbul and fierce fans of Beşiktaş.
(Photo: Jutarnji List)