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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 19 JUL 1998 22:19:58 GMT

    Maribor Cheers Yugoslavia

    For the second time in their independent history, the local football fans are deprived of the pleasure to cheer their boys at the world championship

    AIM Ljubljana, 10 July, 1998

    In the past days a new journalists' dilemma was promoted, titled provisionally: whom would the domestic spectators favour since they cannot cheer their national colours or hoist the flag with Triglav on it in the middle of Paris. Naturally, the officials who were polled first, avoided politically wisely and cautiously all the European favourites, especially those from the Balkans, and chose Brazil and Argentina or some other team from a far away country.

    Raskorak ** Clash

    But the most recent poll showed that passion of the fans is somewhat different from the desirable or official ones. The only two teams from former Yugoslavia, i.e. Croatian and Yugoslav, were very much in the focus of public interest. This was obvious not only because of completely deserted streets during the matches but in the journalists' reports as well. For example, reporter of the daily newspaper DELO, Franci Bozic, reporting from the championship in France, described how Miljan Miljanic, worried just before the beginning of the match between Yugoslavia and Germany, asked him: "Will the Slovenians cheer us or the Germans?" Miljanic then noted that he could not imagine that Slovenians could cheer the Germans, since he would "certainly cheer Slovenia in a duel with any national team except Yugoslavia or his native Macedonia".

    The Slovenian journalist comforted Miljanic by answering that about 20 percent of the Slovenian population are Serbs and Montenegrins, that there is a somewhat less mixed people, a handful of "Yugo-nostalgics", a slightly bigger number of people devoted to their 'Slav' origin and against the German 'machinery', but also a "multitude of bitter or a little less bitter opponents of Yugoslavia", and that according to his estimate the ratio would be 65 to 35 percent of fans in favour of Yugoslavia.

    The cited dialogue inspired Mladina, journal from Ljubljana, to order and later publish the results of a poll done by the Ninamedia agency on the question who the Slovenians cheered during the match between Yugoslavia and Germany. The poll showed that although the evaluation of Bozic was somewhat overestimated, 45 per cent of fans cheered Yugoslavia, and 31 per cent supported Germany. Fifty per cent of those who cheered Yugoslavia were members of Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats, while 66 per cent came from Slovenian National Party of Zmago Jelincic. Even majority of the followers of Conservative Peasants' Party cheered Yugoslavia against Germany.

    It is clear that members of the rightist parties cheered Germany against the Yugoslav team. Among those who rejoiced because of the goals scored by the Germans, 40 per cent belong to Social Democrats of Jansa, and even 57 per cent to Christian Democrats of Peterle. It is interesting that even members of these parties which connect the name of Yugoslavia with all the atrocities in the world, cheered Yugoslavia - about 33 per cent of Jansa's and 28 per cent of Peterle's followers.

    Reformed communists, former members of the ruling class in former Yugoslavia, showed the highest inclination to revisionism; among them only 25 per cent cheered the Yugoslav boys in "blue", while even 37 per cent of the members of United List of Former Communists sympathized with Germany.

    Aversion

    Regional affiliation of the fans is not less interesting. Forty one per cent of the audience in Ljubljana cheered Yugoslavia, while among other cities Maribor showed convincing loyalty to the "blue boys", even 63 percent of the fans declared that they preferred the team of Santrac. The largest number of the Slovenians who cheered the Germans were in Gorenjska (50 per cent), and the largest number of them who supported Yugoslavia (50 per cent) were in Prekmurje, Kucan's homeland in the vicinity of the Hungarian border, but by far the biggest number of Yugo-fans was in Posavje, 75 per cent.

    Slovenian commentators did not succumb to usual euphoria, and have followed this championship quite correctly; although, a tiny bit of malice appeared occasionally. It referred to "economic power" of surrounding Balkan countries "whose fans were not so numerous since they were not able to buy sufficient number of tickets, in competition with the German ones". During the broadcast, reporters of the national TV here and there accidentally talked about "Serb", not Yugoslav players, and mentioned that Yugoslav fans in France, due to their poverty, drank 'sljivovica' from 'rare flasks' to successes or failures of their favourites... There was occasionally also a similar chauvinist hint here and there. After the victory of Croatia, Slovenian commentators have for example reported on fanaticism of Croatian fans. This reached its culmination, unbelievably, in a weather broadcast of the local POP TV, in which formerly popular speaker Trontelj concluded, after a rather long football report about "bread and games", that our neighbours could even do without bread...

    Nevertheless, majority of Slovenian commentators maintained professional standards, by noticing even such details as, for example, that the Japanese rushed to the match Yugoslavia - Germany only because of their idol Dragan Stojkovic-Pixy, and that the Japanese on this occasion painted Yugoslav tricolour on their cheeks and wore hats with slogan "Victory Pixy". The already mentioned commentator Bozic noted after the interview with Miljanic, that the Yugoslavs "do not lack talent", and that they have "overpowered the Germans on the whole" during the first half time, and that Miljanic had "taken the advantage to explain extensively to the French, the Spanish, the Japanese, the Africans... 'the art' of Yugoslav football school"...

    In the meanwhile Yugoslavia was eliminated from the race and Croatia got among the best four teams. Provocative media made use of this in order to ask the Slovenian public another provokative question: Why Slovenia is not present at the world football championship? One of the pollees thought that Slovenia was not present not only due to unfavourable conditions for development of football, but because of the "Slovenian way of life", and the prevailing prejudice that "football is a privilege of Balkan nations", which, according to his opinion was not correct since "there is no state in Europe, which we are so eager to join, without real football".

    Finally there were even those who tackled the proposed subject with Hamlet's pathos; a well known sports commentator wondered: "Why we were not there where the way to success is hard, but we compete where the way to success is wide open and where there are no true opponents?" He did not get an answer to his question, and concluded that the reason was in the "speculative way of Slovenian thinking" and " typical Slovenian selfishness". As long as there is no real answer, Slovenians will compete in skiing, and as far as football is concerned, they will cheer foreign or slightly less foreign teams from former sister republics at world championships.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)