It was a sunny day in the last weekend of August when our plane landed on Aerodrom Nikola Tesla Beograd. It’s been a bucket list trip for me for many years: the Eternal Derby of Belgrade also known as Veciti derbi!
My local club doesn’t play European football this season and most of my friends were still on a holiday and traveling alone to arguably the most intense derby in football was not something I preferred. In Serbia, locals speak a different language and also have their own Cyrillic alphabet, something almost impossible to understand! Would it be safe to travel alone to the most intense Derby in Europe? After some research, I found my solution for all my doubts: Homefans!
We landed in Belgrade with a great group of guys who all love the beautiful game. We all support a different club, but we had something in common from the moment we arrived in Belgrade and that’s ticking off this derby off our bucket list!
Luke from Homefans joined us for this weekend as they travel in groups and in Belgrade we also had the pleasure to meet our local host Ivan, who organized the whole weekend in Belgrade together with Homefans. Ivan (fan of Partizan) who guided us through the whole weekend, picked us up from the airport. Ivan explained that Serbia is much more than just football and we came across one of the biggest basketball stadiums in Europe. In Serbia, you are not just a fan of Red Star or Partizan’s football team, but you support the club. This includes other sports such as basketball, volleyball, and football.
Once arrived at our hotel we ordered some dinner and of course the first beers ‘Pivo’s’. The Serbian beers (Jelen and Lav) were fine and something we’ve had a lot during the weekend! The whole weekend it was 36 – 38 degrees in Belgrade, so we couldn’t complain about the weather here! After our meal, we went with the group to the city center and we were surprised as Belgrade is an amazing city to visit. We’ve seen and heard a lot of stories about ‘The Balkan’ and Serbia in the media in the last years, but it was the complete opposite. We didn’t feel unsafe at all during the whole weekend!
In the evening Ivan shared some of his personal stories about the Belgrade Derby and it was getting us more and more excited. We had some beers and Ivan showed us around and brought us to places you wouldn’t find as a ‘’tourist’’. Luke and Ivan were part of the group all the time and had fun with us all the time rather than acting like a ‘’tourist guide’’. On Saturday we visited the famous Marakana stadium of Red Star Belgrade together with Ivan and we had an exclusive tour to learn more about the history of this club! The graffiti around the stadium was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen mostly created by the ultras, Delije.
After the stadium tour in Marakana, Ivan also told us he arranged a tour for us at his club Partizan Belgrade. The distance between these stadiums is just 500 meters! We were taking the same route as 7.000 Partizan supporters were going to take the day after. Ivan received the keys from the club and we could just walk around the stadium and witness this oldskool football temple with a capacity of almost 34.000 fans. It was an amazing opportunity to see everything around this club, this weekend was already fantastic and the derby was still on our program. In the evening Ivan and Luke took us to a traditional Serbian restaurant and we started drinking the local drink, Rakija. I told Ivan I could challenge him with the Rakija and for the rest of my weekend, my nickname was Rakijaboy! After dinner, we explored the nightlife scene in Belgrade and this was amazing.
On Sunday it was Matchday! FK Crvena Zvezda vs FK Partizan, Red vs Black, Delije vs Grobari. This is why we were here! Before the match, we went to Ivan’s place as he just lives a couple of meters from the Partizan stadium. A few hours before the match you could already feel the intense and intimidating atmosphere everywhere around the city. The police were literally everywhere around the city on Sunday. Before the match we witnessed 7.000 Partizan marching from their stadium to Red Star with a lot of noise, supported with drums and pyro’s, they were guided by an army of police to the stadium, an unbelievable experience. When we entered the stadium, the atmosphere started to grow and the hell broke loose when the Partizan goalkeeper (former Red Star goalkeeper) entered the field, every time he touched the ball the Red Star fans went crazy!
Delije were very vocal after kick-off and started to make a lot of noise, the black part on the other side remained silent. The week before the match a member of Grobari passed away after a clash with Delije. This guy was just 18 years old, so Grobari remained silent for the first 18 minutes of the match. After 18 minutes the whole stand of Grobari unveiled a big banner with a photo of Demir Jukic, the guy who passed away and started to make a lot of noise, one of the most impressive things I’ve ever witnessed in a football stadium. After this the atmosphere exploded in the stadium, both groups started to sing and trying to make more noise than the other side. What a noise, this is why we came to this match!
In the second half, it was becoming dark and this is when all the pyro shows started. Delije had two enormous pyro shows with some big smoke bombs. Grobari started to show 18 pyro’s as a tribute to their fallen friend. “Po zimi, kisi, suncu, snegu!” vs “Ooo Partizane, volime te srce svim!” Both groups kept making a lot of noise, the match was almost over but we only watched the match in the stands. An unreal experience for everyone who loves to explore a new football culture, this is the best experience by far for me in Europe. After the match, Ivan took us to a traditional Serbian burger restaurant and we finished this weekend on a high in a bar! Everyone agreed: This is not our last visit to Belgrade.
The trip with Homefans was great. I’ve visited a lot of stadiums across Europe, but this was for me the first time I didn’t organize the trip myself. The difference with other companies is that Homefans doesn’t aim to get lots of people and daytrippers on their trips, but aim to create experiences for smaller groups. This makes you actually experience football the local way in unknown destinations. Everything was well-organized and I’d like to thank Luke from Homefans and our Serbian friend Ivan for the unforgettable weekend!
Written by Guido Tijman