The Road To Novi Sad

Serbia is a country riddled with songs, sayings and poems, and the national psyche is built around this oral tradition, especially when it comes to football. Indeed, that’s the reason I ended up here. To cut a long story short, a large-breasted language student I met in London was travelling out to study the songs and folk traditions of the country. Her breasts, coupled with a need to escape gambling debts in London and the promise of cheap beer lured me to the country. I escaped the debts, the big breasts escaped me, and the cheap beer resulted in arguing about the finer points of football with a barman called Zojan in some back street watering hole. He knew little about football, but did have an overwhelming passion for local club Novi Sad; enough to get me slagging them off just to annoy him. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue who they were, but as with any team, all the usual jokes fitted – stadium has structural fault, all the seats face the pitch; they put 10 grand’s worth of manure of the pitch every week, and so on. I even perfected a line in praising fierce local rivals Veternik just to really piss him off.


One night, when well taken in the cups, things took a turn for the worst. I was slagging off Zojan and his beloved Novi Sad as usual, when some local turnip farmers, high on vodka and diesel fuel and dressed in their best cardboard hats, interjected, and before you could blink a stand-off had developed. I remember repeating the phrase “Not good” over and over again to myself as they closed in, armed with hoes and rakes and other turnip farming devices that could do untold damage to the rectal area if used aggressively. These marked them out as the better off farmers in the region, because the peasant stock had pointy sticks and that was about the sum of it. These boys probably had a box at the stadium!

Luckily, Zojan stepped in, not for friendship but because of the bar bill I owed, and I escaped with simply handing over my watch, wallet and shoes to the locals. I was done for, with no money and no shoes – but I had kept my teeth because one of the farmers had misplaced his pliers. Oh happy days! Zojan informed me that his father was Boris Krakov, the manager at Novi Sad, and as I owed him for my ever increasing bar bill we might be able to do something of a deal. A handshake and a glass of turnip brandy sealed the bargain. That’s how I agreed to become their new programme seller!

It didn’t seem a bad job; if anything, I reckoned I had got off lightly. I got paid enough to keep living a wastrel’s life, I could see the games for free as long as I got my allocation of programmes sold in time, and I only needed to turn up to work once a fortnight, about an hour before kick off. As I congratulated Zojan on giving me the best job in town, the smug expression on his fat Serbian turnip-shaped face should have alerted me to what was to come.

 

NB. As I said before, this is not my own work. It is Vic Flange’s. The original work can be found on TheDugout, right here. TheDugout is dying, so I’m rescuing the story and giving it the attention it deserves.

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