*By ALEKSANDAR KRSTANOVIC
The whistle blows and another glimmer of hope appears. Nemanja Vidic steps in to take the penalty and shoots – saved by the Slovenian goalkeeper! The end of Serbian football can begin.
Once a European powerhouse as part of Yugoslavia, Serbia drops each time the new FIFA Coca-Cola list of national football teams is published. Currently at 27, a new fall is expected as the team did not qualify for Euro 2012. This prompted the Football Association to send the national team on a Latin American tour comprising matches against Mexico and Honduras:
These two matches secured loans for the Serbian FA employees for the next three months, admitted Tomislav Karadzic, president of Serbian FA.
The ever-worsening economic situation in the country seems to have hit local sports especially harshly. Vojvodina Novi Sad was eliminated from European competition by the lowly Vaduz side from Lichtenstein, while Partizan Belgrade, once a Champions League contender, could not come to terms with semi-professional team of Shamrock Rovers from Ireland.
Sports ties between Serbia and Greece have been very strong for decades and, seeing what is happening in Athens, many feel that “Serbia is the next Greece”. This is already obvious in sports – no new investments, dilapidated infrastructure, players who sign for foreign clubs as soon as their can – sometimes even before their 18th birthday.
Many feel the end is near. Without a thorough reform the whole sports system in Serbia is bound to collapse. However, seeing what is currently happening in whole society, one cannot escape the impression that sports is only a reflection of what is happening in general.
Sports is not immune to the overall situation in the country. It requires investment, dedication, support and, above all – optimism. This last item is, however, in scarce supply.