The Euro War between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade
Chronicle of a War Series.
The endless challenge between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade, valid for the Euroleague playoffs, was not an easy series. When two diametrically opposed philosophies of life collide, the sure outcome is predictable. But what happens along the way will inevitably be intertwined with history and remain engraved in history collective memory of a people. On the one hand, a reviving constituted order that, in a Machiavellian way, defends itself with all the means at its disposal against those who wish for their death (“Asi gana el Madrid“). On the contrary: gravediggers who are willing to bury you alive and then spontaneously die before they are able to, embodying the typically Slavic ability to lose oneself in the aesthetic without caring about the result take care (“Umirati u lepoti”, Dying in beauty).
In the middle? angry brawls, Hell on earth in a building, cruel and inexplicable massacres that mark a civil society and force it to think about itself. But let’s go in order.
Looking ahead to the Final Four in Kaunas, Blancos are on the scoreboard against Crno-Beli (Black and White). The first two games will be played in the Spanish capital, Real start as if it needs to be said, as favourites. However, the Serbian team around Želimir “Željko” Obradović is intolerant of predictions. Kevin Punter, American playmaker who used to play for Virtus and Milan, doesn’t seem to give a damn about tradition and in Game 1 the Spanish crowd freezes with a triple at the end, when 0.4 seconds remain on the stopwatch. Despite a great game by Real’s Argentinian Gabriel Deck, who finishes with 24+8 points, the final score is 87-89 for Partizan.
Game 2 is again at the WiZink center in Madrid, Partizan dominate this time with an overpowering Dante Exum and with one minute and 40 minutes to go they are 15 points ahead, very close to a 2-0 in the series . However, Sergio Llull, a veteran at Real, decides to change course and Real’s fate of giving Kevin Punter possession of the ball with a punch in the rib. The American indicates a reaction by raising his fist threateningly, and a fight immediately ensues. The undisputed protagonists of the Spanish team are Yabusele and Deck, with the first grabbing Exum by the neck and pulling him to the ground. The referees lose at least ten minutes in the immediate replay without achieving anything and are forced to stop the game.
Partizan bravely leaves the field and greets the warmest part of Real fans with irony. They live in Belgrade every day and know that the city is ready to wear the most beautiful dress to celebrate Real Madrid’s funeral. The Spanish Newspaper brand online the same evening headline: “The black history of real history“.
The days leading up to the game are electrifying for the Black and Whites in Belgrade, the fans are experiencing one of the best moments of their sporting life, they haven’t made it into the Final Four since 2010 and in the general euphoria they are pulverizing the tickets in a matter of hours, with endless queues at the box office and websites gone haywire. In the air is a desire for redress from those who are going through a difficult economic time at the corporate level. In fact, on April 11, on the Cukaricki field in Banova, the match of the Serbian football Super League took place it was interrupted four times and then postponedbecause of the violent clashes between the Juzna Tribina, the hottest part of the Juventus fans who protested against the club management and the police. While Red Star is crowned Serbian champion, Grobari finishes the championship in fourth place.
On May 1st, players drove about twenty minutes from Nikola Tesla Airport to the hotel Blancos they understand that Belgrade lives for these sports evenings. The first banner that awaits them is clear and reads: “no if i’m sorry“. The second, less edifying, is aimed specifically at the disqualified Gabriel Deck, with a caricature of him and the caption “Argentinian gypsy bastard“. The Spanish media describe, perhaps exaggeratedly, a guerrilla climate that their team expects in the arena, but in any case “Hell of Belgrade‘ as he defines it brandIt is real.
The boos with which coach Chus Mateo greets the boys in a circle before the race make your legs tremble. Partizan’s anthem sang in the wind from across Stark Arena and the Scenography hoisted by Juzna Tribina for Obradovic You complete the work. The Euroleague is wisely considering having the two teams hold up a pre-game banner that reads “Basketball Unites People” while the entire arena expresses their thoughts by raising the middle finger. That’s enough to send Real into an impasse starting with a semi-final against 9-0. The jubilation is incessant, but slowly veterans Rudy Fernandez, Chacho Rodríguez and, inexplicably not disqualified, Llull rose to the chair. Also important is the work of Tavares, a Brazilian who is overworked despite a bad knee. Realon his deathbed, in front of the grobari (gravediggers) with the spade in hand and the hole already dug, Real makes it and reopens the series with an 82-80 win.
The awakening to black and white Belgrade tastes good missed opportunitybut the excitement for Race 4 scheduled two days later is still alive.
But as the hours go by, the concept of metaphorical death that the whole series has ironically been centered around materializes in one of the most terrifying and senseless forms it could ever take. This is from the Serbian news News of a massacre in primary school (which in Serbia is up to 14 years old) Vladislav Ribnikar, in Vracar district. A 13-year-old opened fire, killing eight children and a security guard, after stealing his father’s gun. The people of Belgrade are currently transforming from a sporting dream into a reality of structural problems and social unrest.
The community is in shock, but reacts physiologically with a dignified silence, which characterizes the behavior of the Juventus fans in the Stark Arena the following evening. The tribute is touching, people throw flowers on the field and the captains of both teams read out their condolence message to those affected and the shocked country. The most organized group of Partizan supporters sent out a clear message before the game: no refrain until the first half, no flags, just applause and boos for the opponents.
The atmosphere in which race four comes to life is surreal, Real see a chance to equalize the series and remain consistently ahead except for a few seconds in the third quarter when Partizan take a narrow lead. It is now clear that the fifth race is on the way, even if victory remains open until the end. The extraordinary show of the Grobari remains in the eyes, singing their anthem a cappella at the beginning of the second half and singing at the top of their lungs until the end of the game. Not to be underestimated is a controversial Juzna Tribina banner that reads
“L’A departure from tradition, religion and family always has tragic consequences. May all the souls of the victims of the Vladislav Ribnikar School rest in peace.”
On Friday morning, however, the black hole into which Serbia seems to have fallen is getting deeper and deeper. On the outskirts of the capital, in Mladenovac, 8 more people are killed with a firearm of a 21 year old. Maybe the dream was already gone, but now the reality is heavier, maybe in the last few weeks a response at the political level without exploitation will be necessary, but we leave that to the analysis of others, more competent and in other forums.
Back to basketball: Obradovic’s boys need to conquer Madrid for the truth contest, no need for a miracle as it has already happened twice, but in this case the situation is completely different. God created Real Madrid and the crucial games by seeing them as complementary. Incredibly, Partizan were 15 points clear in the first half, but Rey De Copas cynically understood what had to be done to keep wielding his temporal power from the moment he won in game three. Kevin Punter’s endless and spectacular three-pointers are an end in themselves as Real’s veterans literally protest every referee’s decision, a radical departure from the submissive attitude of the two away games, but mostly as Llull and Rodriguez sense the fear.
98 to 94, Real flies to Kaunas.
We started by saying that the show’s fate is already set, as the monarchy always tends to protect itself by any means necessary when its survival is threatened. But what story would we tell without Partizan’s two perfect victories, which are now useless aesthetic gestures for the purpose of the result?