“I love Serbia and I don’t want to leave”, says Brazilian midfielder Everton Luiz with tears in his eyes. His coach Marko Nikolic huggs him.
Everton was racially abused in the game between Partizan, the club he plays for, and Rad Belgrade. Home fans of Rad insulted him with monkey chants which provoked him to go to their stand and to respond them. The incident provoked ugly scenes, as both teams went into a battle on the pitch. Partizan won 1-0, but nobody in Serbia talks about the football or about the result. It wasn’t about the game. It was about the fans, but unfortunately not in a way ComeOnLads understands it. We were conflicted and thought that we’d not publish this story in our “About The Fans” section, as it aims to promote the football passion, fans experience and devotion and all the good things around the game we love. However, we have decided to publish this story, because there is a lesson to learn.
Rad Belgrade – plays small, hates big?
The environment around Rad football club has been marked with racist incidents over the past few years. Rad is a small club based in he capital of Serbia Belgrade. It is far from the popularity and the trophy laden history of the two giants of the local game – Red Star and Partizan. The name of the club – Rad means “hard work” in Serbian. It is considered as a club of many of Belgrade’s working class.
The team has a small but loyal support with a hardcore group called Ultra Force. The Supporters are right wing, Serbian nationalists, often violent towards visiting supporters. They have a reputation as bastion of xenophobia, nationalism and even racism in the city.
Rad’s supporters bring Nazi flags to games and hang banners with openly anti-muslim content in the stands. Rad’s ultras burned an Albanian flag few years ago and are often involved in fights with supporters of FK Novi Pazar, a team in the top flight of Serbian football that has many Muslims supporters. They are also known for being involved in violent attacks against participants in the Belgrade’s annual gay parade.
Rad’s stadium is place where tolerance is a word which does not mean a lot. Not every Rad fan is a right wing or a radical nationalist, but the core of the team’s ultras are proud with their nationalists and xenophobic identity. This is more than enough to ruin the reputation of a club.
Rad accepts fans as they are
After the incident with the Brazilian player Everton Luiz, Rad didn’t do much to clear their name. The club officials did not apologize and did not denounce the racists chants. It did exactly the opposite. “He started swearing at our fans and that caused the trouble”, the Rad’s coach said.
Serbians have specific sense of humor and try to take everything with a pinch of salt. The Partizan manager Nikolic, who hugged Everton Luiz as a father and was very critical of the abuse was involved in racial scandal himself not long ago. In April 2016 as coach of Olimpija Ljubljana he called Nigerian forward Blessing Eleke “black idiot”. Shortly after the incident happened Eleke departed the Slovenian club, despite that he received the support of the club’s president Milan Mandaric.
So in Belgrade there was a some element of humor about the Everton Luiz issue. However, it was on the Brazilian’s account and it wasn’t something he’d laugh about.
In Rad’s stadium things don’t look very funny for those who come from different continents, have different ethnicity or race or religion than the local fans.