Red Star at Night, Housewife’s Delight
I recently crossed an item off my “Belgrade Bucket List:” going to a Red Star Football (soccer) game. Going to a Belgrade football game is not for the faint-hearted or easily deafened. It’s a nonstop cacophony of drums, chants and really colorful curse words. And the game is fun, too.
Red Star and Partizan are Belgrade’s two professional football teams. Much like Mets and Yankees fans, Beogradjani swear their allegiance once and early. Enthusiasm is infectious, but also a bit nerve-wracking. European football games can get rowdy; Red Star games are no exception. Fans get into frenzies and fights are common. Belgrade football violence has made headlines several times: once in 2008 when a policemen was attacked with a flare at a Red Star match, and a year later, when a French man died of injuries sustained at a Partizan match. When the two teams play each other, police officers stand guard all over Belgrade to prevent rioting. It’s advised that foreigners do not attend Red Star-Partizan matches.
We weren’t going to press our luck, so we went to a more subdued match against BSK Borca with Serbian friends and our two latest guests: Kokodakati (the cackler, for his outrageous laugh) and Maćeha (stepmother), since Miloš acted like she was his new owner. Traitor.
As soon as we entered the stadium, we could hear drums and singing. The stadium was half-empty, but the northern end was packed with Delije (heroes), the hardcore football fans. Throughout the entire game Delije beat drums, unfurled banners and chanted songs. Kokodakati has seen football matches all over Europe, and said that nothing could rival the Red Star fans. (Except, perhaps, Paritzan fans…)
I found myself watching the Delije instead of the athletes as they lit flares and threw them at stadium officials. The officials calmly placed them in a pool of water built for this purpose. We heard that fans are searched upon entering the stadium, but people still find a way to bring in flares and other items.
Here’s a short video of the madness, including a flare thrown onto the track. It’s too bad that baseball is not a big sport here, because some of these guys would have great pitching arms.
What is it like when the stadium is FULL?
Despite the mayhem, I felt safe. We sat on the west side of the stadium with other couples and families. Compared to the northern Delije side, the west side felt practically funereal. That was fine with me, though. I was exhausted just watching the Delije’s nonstop moving and singing. I asked, “if they do this throughout the game, how do they celebrate a goal?” I soon had an answer.
It was an outrageous sight—the north end looked like it was on fire, and people were yelling as if Red Star had won the World Cup. We cheered for our new team and saw Sveti Sava light up in the distance. A Belgrade football match is something to attend with care—but something you’ll never forget.
*This post’s title is derived from the English expression, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning”