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A Look at the Opposition: Crvena Zvezda A.K.A. Red Star Belgrade

Liverpool face Serbian side Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday in their UEFA Champions League Group C Match

Red Star Belgrade v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

In Serbia they are known as Fudbalski Klub Crvena Zvezda. Red Star Belgrade is the most popular football club in Serbia and according to polls done in 2008, they are supported by 48,2% of the population. The club was founded on 4 March 1945 and they are part of the most successful sports society in Serbia, the Red Star multi-sport club (32 clubs in 27 different sports) which is based in Belgrade. The multi-sport club is also one of the four most successful sports societies in the world.

A Brief History

Red Star are nicknamed Crveno-beli which means Red-and-Whites and they have won 28 League titles (they are the current defending champions), 24 Yugoslavian/Serbian Cups with their last cup win taking place in 2012, a European Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1991, a UEFA Cup in 1979, a UEFA Super Cup in 1991 and a European/South American Cup which they also won in 1991.

In 1992, the club was hit hard by the departure of several players, having to play their home games in other cities due to the war in former Yugoslavia and the subsequent breakup of the country along with UN sanctions and inflation. They struggled to find their way into the Champions League due to extenuating factors other than not qualifying for the competition, which included UEFA disciplinary measures and a ban by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body after it was discovered that Red Star had not paid of their players and staff for at least six months and that the club board allegedly hid their debts by falsifying documents. Now, after a 10 year wait (and 16 years of turbulence in the qualifying rounds of the competition), the Red-and-Whites are finally back in the Champions League.

The Delije

The Delije is an umbrella name for the supporters of various sports clubs that compete under the Red Star Belgrade Sports Society banner. The word delija often refers to a courageous, strong, brave young man in Serbian, however, the Delije of the football club under the Red Star banner are the Ultras – the most feared of Serbia’s hooligan gangs whose power peaked in 1992 when they seized control of football and committed many atrocities during the time of the Yugoslavian war. Taking the cue from the hooliganism which begun in England in the 60s and was dreaded by all of Europe in the 80s, the Ultras had links with Arkan, a Serbian career criminal and commander of a paramilitary force in the Yugoslav Wars. Though they may no longer be as powerful as they once were during the Balkan wars, they remain one of the most violent and racist factions in the football world. The Yugoslavian war has been over for many years but the violence which seems to follow whenever the Delije are near has never ceased. As recently as last December, the Serbian Ultras managed to get tickets in the home section of the Partizan Stadium which led to a battle erupting inside the ground between rival supporters during the Partizan derby.

After advancing to the group stage of the Champions League by winning the tie with their away goals against Red Bull Salzburg, Red Star supporters invaded the pitch, set off fireworks, threw objects and damaged Salzburg’s stadium. Due to this, they were punished by UEFA and the club was not permitted to sell tickets to their fans for their fixture against Paris Saint-Germain on 3 October, as well as their clash against Liverpool at Anfield on 24 October 2018. The club was also fined GBP 27,000 and had to pay for the damage their supporters inflicted upon Salzburg’s Red Bull Arena.

Liverpool vs Red Star Belgrade at Anfield

Tomorrow night marks the 45th anniversary of the first leg of the Crvena Zvezda-Liverpool tie during the second round of the 1973/74 European Cup, which took place in Belgrade on 24 October 1973.

Crvena Zvezda won both legs 2 – 1 and went through to the quarter-finals, subsequently losing to Atletico Madrid. Liverpool had suffered their first ever home loss in UEFA competition when they succumbed to Red Star at Anfield. Thereafter, the Reds would wait another 18 years before they tasted defeat on the European stage again.

Both Liverpool and Red Star Belgrade find themselves needing a win tomorrow after losing their games on match-day two against Napoli and PSG respectively.

Red Star’s match in Paris was meant to be the first of the side’s supporters ban from away matches, however, UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the club over several allegations after supporters got into the ground and seemingly caused trouble in the stands. Thus, Merseyside Police are said to be working with Serbian officers to ensure that Red Star Belgrade’s trip to Anfield goes off without any sort of hitch or a hint of Ultra influence on Wednesday.

Here’s to a disturbance free evening at Anfield and a stadium of only Liverpool Red supporters, bar the football and management team of Red Star Belgrade when the two sides meet on Wednesday.

Up the Mighty Reds!

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