Beating Proleter 3-2, away from home, had been one of the season’s highlights for me. The home game against them should have been a corker, but what we got was another 0-0 bore draw. There is little to say to justify either team’s game. These types of results seemed to come along regularly in Serbian football, and after two wins on the trot, it served as a reminder of the fallibility of Novi Sad. […]
With each second division section being made up of ten teams, we were facing our last game in unknown territory against Mladost Univerzal Lux Lukicevo. Their song went: “And it’s Mladost Univerzal Lux Lukicevo, Mladost Univerzal Lux Lukicevo F C, it’s by far the hardest name, to ever fucking chant!”
The team needed a rest. They were not the fittest bunch by any shakes, but a few days was all they had, because of the cup games. It was a home game against Bezanija who currently lay second in the league. A home win would buy us a bit of a gap; a loss would see us spend a mere three days at the top of the table. With cup football a long forgotten memory, it at least meant we could get back to weekly matches.
And so it came to Mladost Apatin. Alex, Terminal Disease, Janker, The Turd, Boggy the Elder, Knobber and The Invisible Man were all unfit. It didn’t look good! Come the day of the match, Boggy the Elder was in contention and got a place in the starting line up. Mirkin returned for Alex, and the might of Mladost Apatin was faced by a downcast and dreary bunch. On the plus side, we had got the mini bus back, and it was still raining!
The club was losing money faster than someone who loses money very quickly, so the team bus was laid up for the visit to Veternik. It was only on the other side of town, so a fleet of bicycles were borrowed from local residents and the team set off to a ticker-tape parade – well, a few disgruntled locals threw rubbish at them as they cycled by. I had obtained most of the bicycles, and ensured that we were one short. As the man responsible for the error, I followed behind in a horse-drawn cart, relaxing on a pile of rotting vegetables as the driver told me in broken English of the scene up ahead. He muttered: “Agghhh, shit hit him. He wobble. Man angry, empty piss pot on them, small child spitting”. I figured we were getting into Veternik territory. The night before, Angel told me of a previous manager at Novi Sad who had lost the first game against Veternik. The fans had stripped him naked, painted him with hot tar, and dragged him through the streets tied to a donkey. The police had found him in a ditch the next morning, with one of his testicles removed. The offending gonad was in a paper bag, in his mouth. Realising who he was, the police officer simply moved on. He had lived, but had to leave town. I feared for Boris. She reassured me; it had been a home game. For an away game, he would keep his full complement of testes!
The next weekend came the home game against Elan. This time I was forearmed with knowledge, and only printed 1000 programmes. The attendance was 1,700 and the programmes sold out early! The star attraction was an interview with The Turd. There was a man who should let his football do the talking. He came across like Beckham’s stupider brother. He’d started his career with Radnicki Nis, and in four years played 1 game for them. However, a year on loan at PKB Padinska Skela has seen him score 13 in 25 games. Two years with Sindjelic Nis had been more fruitful; 30 goals in 54 games. His time at Car Konstantin had been less than spectacular with only 4 goals in 21 outings. Did he feel pressured to perform given his high price tag? He looked bewildered, scratched himself, and made a gesture that indicated he wasn’t sure. Did he enjoy the tactical approach that Boris Krakov used? A shrug. Favourite colour? Orange. Favourite food? Turnip. At last, we had found the level. He admitted that he sometimes wore his girlfriend’s underwear. I changed the subject. He insisted on showing me; he had a pair of stained bloomers made from what looked like canvas. I went outside for a cigarette, and decided to make the interview up. After all, the smart money was on him not being able to read so he’d never know. […]
The visit to Proleter was a time for heads to clear. They were top of the table, but after one match that only meant they’d had a good win on the opening day! Darko had recovered, so Horvat dropped to the bench. He was still with us. Boris had upped the price by £5,000 and both clubs had walked away. Boris also dispensed with the long ball approach. A first minute Ilijah corner saw Boris the Elder nod past the keeper. Novi Sad maintained the ability to get early goals. It was whether we could defend later on that was questionable! Novi Sad controlled much of the game, until against the run of play Proleter equalised with a near post header from a corner. It was time, Boris decreed, to go long! The Turd came on, and Peasant replaced Zorro at the back. The ball fell to Ilijah six yards from an open goal, and with the cunning and skill of a cunning skilful person, he lifted the ball over the bar, and into the open mouths of the unbelieving Proleter fans. Still, all was not lost. Proleter switched to a 3-4-3 tactic, making the long ball more effective. Almost immediately, Boggy the Elder broke free, latched on to a long ball from midfield, and tucked it away. Proleter had proved by their tactic change that they weren’t in the mood to draw, and they certainly weren’t in the mood to lose! Their pressure told after 83 minutes with a superb equaliser. Hanging on for a draw seemed the best option, and Boris told the team to play defensively. They did, all except Branko. Considering his instructions are defensive, long ball passing from deep, not getting forward; essentially a play maker in front of defence to get the ball out, he has different ideas about what that means. In the dying moments, he picked the ball up in his own penalty area, and dribbled the length of the pitch, taking on three defenders, and then coolly slipping the ball into the net. Goal of the month. Goal of the season.
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.
Fuck! The team! It had all started so well in the opening game against Vrbas. Two minutes into it, Darko broke free and fed a low cross in from the left for a simple tap-in by Ilijah. The Pig looked like he would pull a diamond from his backside, but the woodwork denied him. Then in a crowded penalty box with the ball bouncing around like a fat lady’ breasts on a treadmill, The Impaler latched onto it and stuck it in the net to make it 2-0. The Novi Sad defence didn’t look too comfortable, but it was all attack so things were nowhere near as black as they could have been. Come the hour, come The Chancer! My fear had been that the carthorse would get caught out up-field, and on 36 minutes that fear turned into reality, as Rasic left him for dead before slotting in a simple goal to bring Vrbas back from the dead.
Waking up that day was like coming too after a car accident. It was the best approach to lie still and see if there was any pain or obvious injury before trying to move any limbs. The room was quiet, but it stank of stale bodies, beer, cigarettes and what I thought was sweaty horses! I would have opened my eyes but the grimace as I fought against the pain in my head – like a blunt drill working through my temples – kept them firmly closed. I thought there was someone or something next to me, although I couldn’t be sure. I held my breath to see if I could hear them breathing, but nothing. Either I was alone, or in bed with a corpse. Strangely, the latter seemed more likely, and also more appealing! […]