Radnicki Novi Beograd was a team from Belgrade, and acted as a feeder club for First Division Zeleznik. The squad included 14 on loan players, which meant we’d have to avoid the mistakes made against Vrbas. The Chancer was dropped as Geriatric was fit again, but Darko had an injury. The Novi Sad squad also included Horvas, The Turd and Boggy the Elder. The approach was more defensive, and Boris had decided to employ the long ball game as a temporary measure! Crackerjack also moved to the bench, allowing Boggy the Younger to start between the sticks.
Five minutes into the game saw the first fruits of the new approach; a long ball found Horvat who moved into the box and crossed. The ball evaded the man, and Janker picked it up on the right and crossed. Again it missed everyone. Horvat and Janker crossed from one side of the pitch to the other a few times in a comedy moment that summed up how crap we were, until a Radnicki defender glanced it away, fortunately into the path of Branko who was coming in like an express train – well, like a freight train. He drove it with strength and accuracy into the back of the net. Ranicki dominated the rest of the half, with a few Novi Sad chances falling to Horvat who shot at goal with all the conviction of a grandfather gently passing a ball to a three-year old. I was not the only one surprised to see him start the second half.
On 62 minutes, Branko drifted a long ball to Horvat, who closed in the goal. The Radnicki keeper went out to meet him, expecting to pick up a soft pass. However, Horvat crossed to Boggy the Elder who simply rolled it in to an empty net! Three minutes later an Ilijah corner was nodded in at the near post by Boggy the Elder, and at 3-0 up with 15 minutes to go, Boris decided to make a few changes. One of these was The Turd, replacing The Impaler who had been quiet throughout the match. The game limped to a close, with Boggy the Elder denied a hat trick by a dubious off-side decision. Man of the Match went to Boggy the Younger, who had kept Novi Sad in it with some essential saves in the first half. To make our joy complete, local rivals Veternik had crashed out to Big Bull! As the final whistle sounded, the five or six Novi fans who had made the trip to Belgrade danced on the terraces, but in postures as if they were carrying heavy sacks – a reference to the fact that they were carrying off all the turnips. You know what they say about small things and small minds!
Our final qualifying game was at home against Dinamo Pancevo. On paper they didn’t look a bad team, but we had to take heart from the fact that they were a semi-pro non league outfit. Still, that could wait. The team spent Friday in Belgrade trying to swop their football boots for luxury items such as soap, stale bread and plastic ornaments. The Chancer managed to swop his for a twelve inch high plastic onion. It didn’t really matter, he had no chance of playing anyway. On Saturday morning we returned to the Studenjaka stadium for our second game in two days against Radnicki. However, the game had been moved to accommodate the cup game against Dinamo the following Tuesday. Luckily, we didn’t find out until we got to the stadium. I laughed, pointing out that I had finally found another football association as utterly inept and incompetent as the English FA. The Serbians just looked at me with a sort of: “I’d love to kill you” look, and got back on the minibus.
Then it occurred to me; a day travelling back to Novi Sad, a match on Tuesday, two days to write a programme. Shit. Still, all was not lost. I had expected Novi Sad to be alive with football fever on day one of the season, and had done a print run of 6,000 programmes, anticipating a full house. I had about 4,800 of them left. A new cover, and my work was done! Most of the players were sleeping. I took out my camera and scoured the dark interior of the bus. I had a choice of cover pictures of Vasa or The Chancer. He looked good holding that plastic onion; there was no real debate!
Winning the game against Dinamo would put us in the Serbia and Montenegro cup proper. It was an important game. Most fans would not have been there on the opening day, so I figured I could get shot of the extra programmes, and to most it would all be new!
Prior to the game, The Invisible Man pulled up lame, so The Pig got his arse on the bench. After 12 minutes, a bit of penalty box pinball saw the ball fall to Branko, who tucked it away neatly. I wondered if anyone would remind him he was a defensive midfielder, but with two goals in two games, that could wait! Horvat got himself in good positions a few times, but failed to score. I wondered if he’d get a goal in his remaining time at Novi Sad. I knew Boris had received faxes from Schalke 04 and Betis earlier that day, and they had to have something to do with him. Word was all over town – not that Horvat was away, but that Boris had got a fax. You don’t get faxes in Novi Sad very often.
In the 73rd minute, Boris the Elder took a free kick from about 35 yards, which the Dinamo keeper could only parry. Josser seized on the rebound, and it was 2-0. Time to bring on The Turd, Knobber and The Pig, and Horvat left the Novi Sad turf, maybe for the last time. The game ran out of steam. Dinamo couldn’t force themselves into it; Novi Sad had done enough.
The Detelinari was buzzing; the first round proper! Everyone, included Vasa, was heading in to town to get pissed. I nipped into the bar to see if Angel was free, She said she couldn’t come out; her mother had arranged for several “uncles” to call by, and bills needed paying. I told everyone I would meet them at the bar. I had one job to do. After they had all left, I flagged down a passing horse and cart, and loaded the spare 3,000 programmes in the back, now with a mix of covers. I couldn’t repeat that trick, they’d hang me by my feet and beat my genitals with sticks. During the match, I had persuaded Vasa that the reason some sections of the crowd threw their programmes on the pitch was an Argentinian World Cup-style paper cascade. “They don’t rip them up first?” he asked. I shrugged; everyone knew the Serbs were lazy bastards.
When I got home I unloaded the programmes, stashed them on the bed, paid the driver with a half-smoked Marlboro and the lend of a porn mag, and headed off to the bar. I would dump the programmes in the river tomorrow; tonight I had some celebrating to do!
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.