The sixth episode transcript
Sometimes, due to interest or sycophancy towards the ruling government, these football people encouraged football fans to engage in anti-sports behaviors, or fans themselves, in accordance with the politics of clubs management, that is the ruling politics, participated in war propaganda.Football fans, even though at times in conflict with football clubs’ management, are generally politically active, so captions at stadiums are in fact political messages, reflecting the general state in the country. Nationalistic sentiments are present, with common sayings: “Knife, wire, Srebrenica”, “Serbia to Serbs, expel the Turks”. Racist excesses on football games or events supported by football fans are not a phenomenon or one time event, but a process lasting for years, and still present today. In the beginning of the 1990’s the fans of Red Star were divided into supporters of Milošević, Šešelj, and Drašković. Arkan united the fans, hence the negative fan energy was directed towards the Croatians. Fans of other football clubs chanted against Muslims and Albanians, hence the nationalism, disguised in patriotism, served to unite fans of all football clubs.
Aleksandar Vlahović, Red Star sports association assembly president and former Minister for privatization: Football was not an exception to what was happening here during the 1990’s. We had a period of very difficult sanctions and the country’s total isolation, the wars in the closest surroundings, which all facilitated a number of people to get enrich. Football cannot be immune to the circumstances within a society.
Today, football fans chant “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia”. In this context, a statement by “Delije-North”, a group of fans of Red Star, appears especially interesting. They harshly criticized the shameful behavior of a small group of demonstrators who, at the time of peaceful rally against one sided declaration of Kosovo independence, robbed and demolished parts of Belgrade.
The statement by “Delije-North”, February 23rd, 2008: This has nothing to do with Serbian-ship or power.
In the statement, they described how the fans arrived at the rally against declaration of Kosovo independence, calmly and without markings, carrying Serbian flags and how they participated in a mass held at the Saint Sava Temple. The fans pose a question: where was the Serbian president at the time when it should have been shown to the world that Serbia is united around the attitude against Kosovo independence? A political message from the fans’ statement is also interesting: “All individuals and media who have tried to ruin the positive image of Serbia should be ashamed. The public has to be more energetic in promoting the attitude Serbia is united regarding Kosovo independence, and this should be the image send out to the world”.
When the managements of Red Star and Partizan changed the political side before October 5th 2000, well aware that Milošević’s regime will soon come to an end, football fans, drafted during the 1990’s, chanted during matches “Sloba is Saddam”, and “Slobodan, Save Serbia by committing suicide”. The news headline on October 5th was that football fans allied with Democratic Opposition of Serbia. A long term conflict between the Partizan fans and the club management however revealed the other side of the story. Namely, the clubs’ management financed for many years leaders of fan groups, hence a question is posed: were the fans supporting the club or they supported the club in ways the club’s management and their political protectors wanted, and what about the rest of the clubs? The Partizan fans are in conflict with the club’s secretary general, Žarko Zečević since 2004, when they accused him of wanting to privatize the club; since then, the fans are openly against the club management. In mid 2005, after the club failed to qualify for UEFA championship, the fans started a boycott of the clubs matches. They were constantly extending their requests regarding the changes within the club, and even held a rally, asking from the state to deal with the Partizan problem. In addition, they placed a cross at the club’s stadium, with an epigraph “Zečević Žarko, 1950-2006”.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: We gave a lot to them, in a way, during the 1990’s, we used to take them with us, on the road. We provided for the fans leaders, for their choreography, we gave them money, to buy and make. “Give us this and we’ll support you”. Of course, there were some insults, then we said- no more. Then we stopped. And then the insults started…Personally, I was not offended very much, perhaps I was the least targeted, but I was offended for the things they have said to my friends, to my co-workers, foremost to Zečević who did nothing to deserve insults, to his kids, his wife, his family, to Nenad Bjeković also. It seemed the insults were endless.
Nevertheless, after many years of presidency but also collision with the fans, Ivan Ćurković left football club Partizan, followed soon by Nenad Bjeković and Žarko Zečević. The three leaders of Partizan failed to convince the public that their resignations also implied their influence faded within the club.
Žarko Zečević, the club’s assembly, September 2007: I would like to address some malicious statements, articles and machinations that appeared in the past month or so, namely, that Zečević is bringing Tole Karadžić to be the club’s president, while he will reign from the background. I just want to tell you this: I do not live in the background. I live openly hence the bringing of Tole Karadžić is a move by this club in order to put the right man at the right place and right moment.
Today, Tomislav Karadžić is a president of football club Partizan, and also a president of Vojvodina Football Association; and from several days ago, he serves as a replacement to Zvezdan Terzić in Serbian Football Association since Terzić decided to extend his specialization in the U.S.A. Toplica Spasojević leads Red Star, known in public as a man close to Miroslav Mišković.
Managerial boards of Red Star and Partizan remain very interesting today, as they were so in the previous years. Financial endeavors of sports clubs are not controlled for at all. The authorized associations proclaimed themselves incompetent. Serbian Ministry of Sports does not posses legal options to deal with association of citizens and about the only control, from time to time, is routine control by tax officials and rare visitations by police in charge of industrial criminal.
Slobodan Lalović, Committee for financial abuse 2001-2002: I have to say it was a very funny situation when certain individuals told me, after my argument that we have to see what was really going on in there, so when those certain individuals who held certain positions and offices, said: great, that’s what we really need, it should be investigated. But no one ever did it in a serious way. Let me remind you, especially those two associations, they were connected with government since always, since the time of communism. Just recall who had a seat in boards of, for instance, Red Star and Partizan, hence there is this, I would say, negative tradition. That’s the factual problem.
After routine financial controls of the clubs Red Star and Partizan, the official reports in general stated no irregularities were found in their respective business endeavors. After loudly announced controls, only small delays were determined in tax paying. The clubs operated as public enterprises, without ownership logic, but they had a considerable protection in a case that the states’ clerk tries to audit their bookkeeping. As a rule, politics and sports went well together, hence the managerial boards of the largest Serbian clubs were a blue print of the governments of Serbia and former Yugoslavia in their best compositions.
Partizan’s president was Mirko Marjanović, at that time also a head of the state enterprise Progres. When he was elected as Serbian Prime Minister, he became an honor president of Partizan, until his death in 2006. At the same time, a member of Red Star board was Tomica Raičević, vice president of Federal government, as well as Dragan Tomić, president of Serbian Assembly. During the 1990’s the police had no business regarding either Red Star or Partizan. Radmilo Bogdanović, then a Minister of Police attended Red Star board meetings. Partizan had Vlastimir Đorđević, former chief of police but also his predecessor, Radovan Stojičić Badža. Criminal charges were not filed. Prosecution didn’t work without police orders. Dragoljub Janković, Minister of Justice was also a member of Partizan’s board. Even Rade Babac was there, public defender of the municipality Savski Venac, where the club is located Dobrivoje Gerasimović, County Court judge was in the board of Red Star. At the same time the politicians sat in the managerial boards, they made associations with people who could assure profitable and safe businesses. A number of businesses were granted based exclusively on privileges, damaging at the same time, numerous state enterprises. During the 1990’s, when the two cubs engaged in more than profitable endeavors by renting cheaply Telekom lines, which could by hotline services bring large profit, a member of Red Star board was Milorad Jakšić, Telekom general director. Dojčilo Radojević, Minister of Telecommunication, was seated in Partizan’s board, as well as Aleksa Jokić, director of Post Office. The clubs, in addition to institutionalized protection, also enjoyed media protection. For instance, Milorad Vučelić, then a general director of Radio-Television Serbia served in the Partizan board; furthermore, Dragan Hadži Antić, former director of Politika and Radomir Šoškić, former editor of Tempo, sports journal, were also the board members. These boards were additionally enforced by prominent businessmen from the 1990’s, later on under police investigation. Red Star seated Slobodan Radulović, a runaway, accused of being in “bankruptcy mafia”, a director of C market. Mirko Vučurović sat in the Partizan’ board, a director of Nivada company, involved, as cited, in the police operation “Network”, in cigarette smuggling. Bojan Radovanović, at present a member of the Partizan’s board, was under investigation due to an assumption he was money laundering as the owner of football club BASK.
After October 5th, politicians became less prominent within the clubs’ boards. Still, there were no meticulous controls after 2000. In Red Star board, Oliver Bogavac, director of Administration for the prevention of money laundering served as a member, as well as Božidar Cerović, dean of University of Economy, an expert for privatization in sports. Red Star board member, Saša Kožić, deputy of the chief inspector of Belgrade Tax Administration, kept his seat even after the last assembly meeting. The members include Miodrag Đorđević, former chief tax officer, former director of Agency for privatization, and at present a director in Večernje Novosti. The clubs’ property will undergo an evaluation, hence it is interesting that at present, Red Star managerial board seats also Milan Tomić, director of Directorship for property in Serbia.
As announced for 2008, sports clubs should undergo privatization. One of the most active consulting companies, regarding privatization in Serbia is Eki Investment. The two leaders of this company are at the same time the leaders of the sports associations of the two largest clubs. Aleksandar Vlahović is a president of sports association Red Star, while Danko Đunić serves the same function for the sports association Partizan. Đunić also is a president of Institute of Economy, which during the Milošević’s regime helped to devise the law on privatization in Serbia.
Today, football club Partizan board seats only one minister, Rasim Ljajić, Minister for labor and social issues. Interestingly, Ljajić became the board member in 2006, but had resigned after only several months. He never publicly explained his resignation, but according to unofficial information reported in media, it turned out he could not do anything since the club board was still seating the same people from some 20 years ago: Žarko Zečević, Nenad Bjeković, Stojanče Ristevski and Svetolik Kostadinović. Rasim Ljajić returned to the Partizan board when Žarko Zečević officially left the club. Ljajić refused an interview with Insider. In December 2006, Nenad Popović took over the presidency from Ivan Ćirković. Popović is a chief of economic team in Coordination Centre for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia, associated with Democratic Party of Serbia and owner of ABS holding. Then, the club was joined by Dragan Vignjević, director of Electronetwork, Manojlo Vukotić, a director and editor in chief of Večernje Novosti. They resigned after six months. After their resignation, Žarko Zečević resigned too, but he had stayed in the club until September 2007. Vignjević, after he had left, claimed that Zečević was to be asked for everything regarding the club. Partizan’s endeavors have a lot of suspicious activities, argued Vignjević, who was supposed to investigate operations of several companies within the club. “Partizan is Žarko Zečević, this should be clear to everybody. We’ve tried to analyze endeavors of Partizan’s companies, but simply, there are no documentations providing precise data. All the important information are held by Zeka, in his head, while the rest of the data in written forms are just fiction, so that nobody really knows what was going on in here”, said Vignjević.
B92: Why Partizan has so many companies? So, it’s the only firm, besides Delta Holding, with so many companies.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, I don’t know. How many? I don’t know how many.
B92: Over thirty.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Oh no, I don’t believe so. No. I don’t believe.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: I mean, I don’t know. That’s right, I don’t know. I don’t know that detail. I know we had like 10 companies, which used to work as I said so…It was more like a social, I mean, a social story. So, we employed…
B92: Social, how?
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, we employed people we were…We started those companies in faith they would bring something, but they weren’t bringing us any profit. I think that, as far as I know, those several companies, the driving school, then some Borea, Barea, Borea, whatever the name is, with Italians, ceramic tiles, ceramic, sanitation equipment, material, I think that didn’t work out very good. I even think…
B92: Well, OK, you had, I don’t know, wholesales, coffee, tea, leather…
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, no, it was…You know what, this was marketing, it was marketing within the sports association Partizan. That should be divided, so we had only one part. That worked within the sports association. So, these were not Partizan’s exclusively, on the contrary, I think, it was social….We had there a man who worked there. No, not just one man, but several of them, but this was connected with the sports association Partizan. Not for that much, of course, the football club always had an interest and we were, you know, we were very practical.
B92: All right then. Partizan also had a company for missing persons.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: I have no idea, this is the first time I hear about it, the first time.
B92: Well, you find this amusing too.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: I don’t know, I don’t know…I cannot, this is the first time I hear about it. I cannot comment on it.
B92: But if someone wants to inspect this, so many companies…
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, it’s clear, yes, yes…I’m telling you about the companies I know of. It should be checked, what I just told you, with whom the deal was made. Maybe they were our partners. Zečević provided a report. The report had everything that the secretary and managerial board were interested in. And he provided all the data we asked for, absolutely every data. However, I repeat again, not everything should be put in association with Partizan, maybe we were a minority shareholder in those companies, and you know that companies were frequently founded at that time, it wasn’t much of a problem, really.
B92: No, the companies I mentioned, those were with Partizan directly…
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, OK then, I really don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know, I know there were companies, but I think I didn’t go into details, since, as I said, it was…Zečević of course, had an autonomy to sometimes tries to make something, but I think it wasn’t so important and not…I don’t see a reason in it…Not one of the companies were so important so that we discuss it now. I, I’m telling you, I was…
B92: Well, many people commented that these companies served for money laundering. All those companies.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Not at all. Partizan is a large club, I said how much is our budget, our budget was until now 20 million euros, this is known, there are financial reports, final reports, there are things which are….There are inspections, so we were actually swimming well in those waters.
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal: This is the first time I hear something like this, but I can assume, both Red Star and Partizan are large companies. So, within their companies, they can have a number of other companies, with accounts, and so if one of the accounts is blocked, they can function through some other. I can only imagine what this means.
B92: Well, what does it mean?
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal: I’ll explain it on anther example. For instance, in the city where I live, Subotica, there are also companies having 20-30 smaller companies within the main company. We controlled the majority of these companies, and the majority was problematic.
B92: Or they did not exist?
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal: Or they didn’t exist. That is, if they existed, they existed for a while and then got closed down. This means the companies existed for a while for certain operation. This means the companies served for money laundering.
Božidar Cerović, Red Star board member 2001-2005: Red Star, for instance, didn’t do it. We even discussed in the club, privately, should we engage in such businesses and we determined it would be too difficult to manage and control, to make, to enter a dozen of business activities, to disqualify our main activity, to become in fact producers or traders of this an that, so we decided to stay concentrated mostly on the sports. They have, I know this for a long time, developed in other direction and I cannot tell you right now…I’ve read, but this doesn’t mean it’s true, they are not doing so good, that those companies are not operating well.
The fact is that football official followed and changed political sides with every governmental change. They were close with the Milošević’s regime, and afterwards they suddenly became close with Democratic Opposition of Serbia. The leaders of football club Partizan, for instance, after October 5th, claimed they had never been favorites of the representatives of Milošević’s government. Only a few years later, in 2005, when the danger lessened, the Partizan leaders, for the 60th jubilee of the club, awarded golden prism to the representatives of Democratic Opposition of Serbia, but also to Mirko Marjanović.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: We got along very well. In the sports field, that is. Mirko was very sensible man. He loved Partizan. He helped Partizan. He spent his free time in Partizan… Then, in 1995, he left, because the situation was like that, he left to be where he should be, so as the prime minister. Mirko Marjanović was, I’m not sure, but I think, there’s a photo of him when he was appointed, on an assembly, was it in 2000, he was appointed honor president. In 2005, when we celebrated 60th jubilee, then we got prisms, some gold some crystal. There was a large crystal prism. And of course, the crystal prism was given to people, including Mirko Marjanović for his merits, as an amateur worker and as a long time president of Partizan. He got this prism, the same as I got one, as well as several other people very much so….Dragan Papović, for example, I have this list, but it’s very….
B92: I’m asking you this because, somehow, it appears that after 2000, after October 5th, it seemed Partizan disavowed of Mirko Marjanović, Socialist party of Serbia and Yugoslav Left Party…
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: No it didn’t. Partizan has never….
B92: Didn’t you claim that….
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: No, no, no. Partizan didn’t disavow of Mirko Marjanović, never. His photo is still among the photographs of all the Partizan presidents. So, Mirko Marjanović was a sports worker with us, extremely good one, a friend to Partizan. He loved Partizan. Mirko Marjanović was, when he left from…when he left to politics, to be the country’s prime minister, he had a correct relationship, but he wasn’t on matches so often, he hadn’t had any time. It wasn’t his….he was a bit critical towards Partizan, more then he should, perhaps, but his love was never questioned.
B92: You were not close with Yugoslav Left Party, then?
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, I wasn’t, for God’s sake, how, why would I be close with Yugoslav Left Party? I am close also to…
B92: Well, all right, it’s not a felony.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: I know, but I think, why would I be close, for I am a man…My…
B92: But you attended their promotions.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Yes, like I attended many other events. I am a public figure, hence…that has nothing to do with anything. My politics is, as they say, my religion is football, and my politics is sports. Hence, I am a sports man and as such even today I maintain contact with the people who run the state.
Ivan Ćurković led Partizan for 17 years, together with Zečević and Bjeković. Today he is a president of Olympic Committee. Zečević is a director in a company by Russian Gasprom while it is not know what Bjeković is doing at the moment. He was Partizan secretary general for 23 years; previously, he was Partizan basketball player for 12 years. From 1984 until 2007, Zečević, along with several close associates, kept a secret regarding the club’s operations, he sold players, opened 20-some companies, organized sweepstakes and hotline. In his public appearances, he spoke about the club but the assembly members later claimed he had never reported about the club’s financial operations. Zečević is a long term member of Olympic Committee, representing Serbia and Montenegro Basketball Association. Interestingly, his wife, Mira Zečević was a marketing director in Politika during the time of Hadži Dragan Antić. Žarko Zečević’s sister is a wife to Danko Đunic, who was during the 1990’s a director of Belgrade Market. Danko Đunić is a president of the sports association Partizan. Zečević came to Partizan helped, among other things, by his family ties. His father, Slavko Zečević was chief of police and served in the club’s board. The wars, disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and isolation from European matches did not bother Zečević. At the time of hyperinflation, he was managing things very well, even improving the club’s standings, mostly due to maintaining close relationships with all important Serbian politicians. Sanctions also didn’t bother him. Money earned from the club mostly didn’t even enter the country, while he was also cooperating with Dafina Milanović, who operated the pyramidal Dafiment bank offices also on the Partizan stadium. He managed well after October 5th, expending business around Partizan and making contacts with the new government. When the Zemun gang kidnapped his friend Milija Babović, Zečević carried the ransom money with Milorad Ulemek. In “Saber” operation, it was discovered that the members of Zemun gang, as managers, took money from the transfer sales of Partizan first team players.
On the other hand, while Zečević led Partizan, the club scored its greatest success- by entering the Champions League. Many people commented that Zečević’s bringing of Lothar Matthaus is one of the best moves that Zečević ever made. He helped to design the new stadium, which according to his estimates, costs 350 million euros. The new stadium is accompanied by a new office space in good location, and this is, as he argues, what he decided to dedicate his time, after resigning from the position of secretary general. Today, Zečević is employed in Jugorosgas, an integral part of the Russian giant Gasprom.
And while the management of Partizan remained the same for years, until 2007, Red Star underwent several changes. Firstly, Dragan Stojković Piksi replaced Dragan Đajić. It is broadly accepted that Dragan Đajić was the best football player in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia. Serbian and Montenegrin Football Association officially proclaimed Đajić as the best football player in the state for the past 50 years. Đajić played in Red Star and French Bastille. In 1979, when he was 33 years old, he became a technical director of Red Star until 1998, when he became the club’s president. During his presidency, Red Star accomplished its greatest success- by winning in Champions League. Đajić resigned in 2004 due to as officially stated, health reasons, but unofficially, due to a conflict with financiers. During his presidency, several tens of players left the club, while the club earned from the transfers more than 100 million euros. He managed to prevent Željko Ražnatović Arkan to take over the club in the second half of the 1990’s; his good contacts with Serbian Renewal Movement date to this time. However, he failed to prevent managers with criminal record to sign deals with some of the club’s first team players. Dragan Đajić was arrested on February 5th this year, under an assumption he had, together with Vladimir Cvetković and Moša Marinković, illegally usurped six million 127.104 euros from the transfer of Goran Drulić into the Spanish Saragossa in 2001. His wife Branka Đajić, a deputy of republic public prosecutor, and Đajić’s lawyers claim the arrest was a setup, that potential witnesses do not exist and that behind his arrest is Delta company, which is trying to take over Red Star.
For some time, Delta company is mentioned as the most serious candidate for the next owner of Red Star. The company stated many times it will invest money into the club under condition they will be allowed to run the club. Delta even offered to Dragan Đajić that the investor should run the club while Đajić and his men could stay as monitors with a possibility to break the contract if they decide the investor is working against the club’s interests. Delta company managed to formalize its influence after Dragan Stojković became a president of the club. Stojković became a president in July 2005. He soon stated the club has a negative balance sheet of several millions euros. Mira Vujičić became a financial director, previously on the same position in ITM company whose owner is the current Red Star president Toplica Spasojević. In the beginning, Stojković publicly claimed he will not admit tycoons into Red Star, but because of these statements, the club was left without a sponsor. Several moths later, a different decision was made, so Red Star was empowered by Delta’s representative, Nebojša Divljan, a director in Delta General. He was accompanied by Draško Petrović, leading man of Telekom, Rade Svilar, director of Apatin brewery, Vlastimir Đorđević, general director of EPS and Milan Blagojević, director of Serbian Bank. In 2007, Futura plus, owned by Stanko Subotić Cane and Vital, then owned by Predrag Ranković Peconi, became the club’s sponsors. Daily journals in Serbia reported Stojković left Red Star because of Miroslav Mišković.
Bođidar Cerović, Red Star board member 2001-2005: This is the only thing I can say for now, let’s see how it goes, so to see. I really don’t have…Firstly, I don’t have a reliable information, hence, that might not be totally true. There are some stories, but not…I didn’t find it for sure. The question is who is the boss here. Is the club strong enough in order to, when it has to…OK, you so have some rights, we have some rights, we cannot do it just like that. But when it is like this, that’s nothing, then it…Everything goes.
Aleksandar Vlahović, Red Star sports association assembly president and former Minister for privatization: It’s perfectly normal that those investing money influence functioning of any mechanism. So, when a bank give you loan, it influences the functioning of you company, monitoring how the loan is being realized.
One of the best Serbian football players and fifth Red Star star, after he had ended football career in 2001, became a football official. Without a day of working experience, he became Yugoslav Football Association president, then in 2005, he became football club Red Star president, succeeding Dragan Đajić. Whilst Stojković was Yugoslav Football Association president, there were enormous irregularities regarding matches fixing, and numerous millions worth transfers without any control. The Yugoslav national football team failed, in this period, to achieve any considerable success. After he became Red Star president, and faced with the fact that numerous players have private contracts with criminals, Stojković decided, as this decision was understood in public, to sell almost the entire first team, in order to free Red Star from the influence of criminal groups. Even though he had made grand plans for 2007 season, he suddenly, almost over night, resigned while the club was left in debts. Media reported Stojković had left because Mišković, the major club sponsor, required it. Dragan Stojković Piksi is presently in Japan as a coach of football club Nagoya, where he had played until 2000, when he ended his sports career. In Japan, Piksi is a living legend. He has his own monument in Nagoya. A stadium entrance is named after him as well as one street. He had played 84 matches for the national team, and he lacked only one game to reach Dragan Đajić.
Stojković’s resignation and Toplica Spasojević’s appointment as Red Star president is connected with Mišković and Delta company. Toplica Spasojević is an owner of IMT company since 1994. He figured as a probable new president of The Serbian Chamber of Commerce.. Rumor was that Spasojević represents Mišković, who is trying to influence the Serbian Chamber of Commerce even more. According to media, Mišković was nicely asked to give up on this, hence Spasojević came to be Red Star president instead. ITM company was distributing Nike sports gear, represented exclusively by Delta. At Red Star assembly meeting, held several days ago, Toplica Spasojević suggested new members of the managerial board.
Toplica Spasojević, Red Star assembly meeting, February 2008: Dragi Mićović is in construction business, has several companies engaged in construction, he is in Red Star for the past several years, a major sponsor, and he’s always here to help, as far as I was able to see from the financial data. As far as situation with Marko Mišković, a son of Mister Mišković, he has his own business, and in front…Delta is our major technical sponsor with Nike gear. Slobodan Perović is general director of Salford company, which owns three large Serbian brands, as I said, Bambi Banat, Imlek and Knjaz Miloš. He previously worked in Energoprojekt, for year abroad, and now he’s I think, four years at the forehead of these companies.
Starting with the mid last year, Marko Mišković intensified his club activities, while Dragan Stojković announced him as a future board member. Mišković took over many businesses within the club, so he, for instance, personally brought Nenad Jestorović to Red Star. Mišković also supervised all the transfers. Together with Stojković, he was on a lookout for the new club coach. Dragi Mićović is lately mentioned only as an owner of construction business companies and major sponsor of the club. Insider found that Mićović is on good terms with Serbian government secretary Dejan Mihajlov, who, in this way, as argued by many football officials, has a direct influence on Red Star. New board members were appointed also by Tomislav Karadžić, after becoming president of football club Partizan.
Tomislav Karadžić, Partizan assembly meeting, September 2007: In a conversation to follow with the members of executive board we suggested, you will see they are people with clean biographies, people with well off companies, well off companies which will provide the club with considerable assets regarding our work.
In the present management of Partizan, a lot of members have close connections with the regime of Slobodan Milošević. An entrepreneur from Subotica, who has had almost all official position in football, at present is a deputy of Serbian Football Association president, president of Vojvodina Football Association and president of football club Partizan. He is constantly present in football since the mid 1980’s. A bad recommendation for Karadžić was not the fact that a club from Subotica, Spartak, once a first league club, where he served twice as a president, is declining year after year. Karadžić is Vojvodina Football Association president for the past 18 years, with only a short break; he managed at the position during the wars and sanctions without a problem. In the 1990’s in the middle of decline of the Serbian society, he was building a company named Gloria and engaged in oil trade. Previously, he headed a number of state enterprises not operating any more. In his effort to deny media reports about his alleged sponsorship of Serbian Socialist party, he claimed he was a member of the party in 1996-1997. During an attempt to replace him from the position of Vojvodina Football Association president in 2001, he held the association assembly in the prison of Sremska Mitrovica. He became known to the public as an acting president of Serbian and Montenegrin Football Association, after Dragan Stojković had left. He followed the national team selector, Ilija Petković, on all occasions, when the team qualified for the world championship. He owns a hotel, Gloria, in Subotica, which hosts youth representation during their training preparation in Palić. Tomislav Karadžić was also the owner of the company “Palić basement” which he later sold for 4 million euros. Karadžić was close with Mihajlo Kertes, Vlajko Stojiljković and Mirko Marjanović. Karadžić was a director in several companies: “29. November”, “Železničar”, “Jugokoža”, “Agros”. All these companies do not exist anymore.
In 2003, Zoran Arsić became Vojvodina Football Association president, replacing thus Tomislav Karadžić. As the president of Vojvodina Football Association, Zoran Arsić sent a request to the Government of Serbia for lustration in sports. He says a political will was present to carry out such thing but the Živković’s government was soon replaced and nothing came out of it.
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: This was a period wherein a generation of people spent so much time in football, they had so many chances to do whatever they could. They brought football to absurd. We had so much trouble with these people, who used to tell us…A lot of things happened… kicking of my colleague, bottle throwing, or gun threats, and many other things, and of course, in those circumstance we initiated that some people should be banned from watching football, let alone participate in it.
Zvezdan Terzić was only 31 years old when he became a president of the youth football club Belgrade (OFK Belgrade). Previously, he played football in the same club and in Castoria, a Greek football club. In 2005, he was elected president in Serbian Football Association. Terzić, as a man with the extraordinary skills for public relations, was presented to the public as a family man and successful football official, who graduated at Belgrade University of Economy. He managed to attract many sponsors who kept Serbian Football Association. Delta company was among the sponsors. During Zvezdan Terzić presidency, for the first time a foreigner, Clemente, was appointed as a national team selector. He was not successful though. Terzić’s closest associates from the youth football club Belgrade, Mirko Brašnjović and Nemanja Jolović, were later accused of being the members of “bankruptcy mafia”. As a Montenegrin, Terzić even today claims he is very proud of his 20-years long friendship with Brano Mićunović, the owner of Sutjeska and a man with thick criminal file. The friendship between Terzić and Mićunović involved football as well, so Sutjeska and the football club Belgrade, as claimed by the current football officials, have played the fixed matches in “three for three” system, wherein the home team won 12 times in a row. After his election for the Serbian Football Association presidency, Terzić, within the short time period, brought people from his former club to the association. Since then, he practically privatized the national team, because players of the youth football club Belgrade have a privilege to play for the national team too. Terzić promotes the players from his former club in youth team selections, rising so their prices hence earning from their transfer sales reach millions. After the several Insider episodes and after the arrest of the football officials in February, Terzić left for the U.S.A. for specialization. Recently, he decided to prolong his stay and transferred over his jurisdiction to Tomislav Karadžić. Terzić’s associate and member of referee organization, accused by Dragomir Tanović, a referee, of forging a referee’s list for international competitions, has resigned last week to all the functions.
Snežana Markoviž-Samardžić, Minister for Sports and Youth: I’m building my optimism on the basis that state institutions will become stronger, and then when certain basic problems are solved you will get a chance to solve other problems as well. Have more patience, I am positive that things have to get going in certain pace, because the citizens of Serbia will ask, you like you are now, what is going on in sports?
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: Here, even today, law on Sports is in preparation, but no one take any action to explain what privatization in sports really assumes. People have dealt very seriously with football fields, with those stadiums, with office spaces around stadiums. This has turned into a real competition to make the best position for the future privatization.
Božidar Cerović, Red Star Board member from 2001-2005: It is a total misconception that privatization will make a turn-around and suddenly everything will be OK. On the contrary, I believe…privatization under these conditions is especially damaging, therefore I do understand a position held by both Red Star and Partizan. They want to maintain whatever there is left from their already damaged reputation, but still a reputation of major sports clubs, which if not at present, but in the past had considerable international achievements or glory days, whatever, but those days will not return if we only change the owner, that is, not by ownership change, if we establish someone who will accidentally on that day decide to buy Red Star and Partizan, when they find themselves on some auction and tender.
Many have speculated that after Zečević’s employment with Gasprom, the Russians will buy Partizan. Zečević denied it, explaining further that he had tried to make Gasporm a sponsor to his former club. At the same time, at the onset of the announced football clubs privatization, businessmen seem very interested to invest in Partizan and Red Star.
Božidar Cerović, Red Star Board member from 2001-2005: It could have something to do with privatization or it could have something with their enormous love toward the clubs. I mean, I cannot really guess what’s behind it, but for certain, no club should limit a possibility of having its members a readiness to invest without some special requirements towards the club, but I’m afraid those kind of people are very few.
Aleksandar Vlahović, Red Star sports association assembly president and former Minister for privatization: Investing in sports could be very profitable in ways I described already. If you invest in a club, and that clubs is successful, then the club will also achieve better transfer prices during the transfer sales of its football players and it’s logical that the invested money should be returned with the appropriate rate of return.
Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Let me tell you, very honestly. I don’t know if Partizan without the stadium, and without Teleoptik, which is not owned by Partizan but by sports association Partizan, is interesting to anybody. Because it’s a hole with no bottom. Expenses are huge while income is totally uncertain, for I really don’t know…They don’t know today…My friends who are doing this today, they don’t know if they will be able to sell someone. For those monies are invested right away in the most urgent needs within the club.
After October 5th, a lot of industry was privatized but the enigma of how to privatize the clubs still remains, since the clubs as association of citizens still operate as social enterprises. The last announced solution assumes that privatization in sports will be solved separately from Law on Sports. Serbian ministry for Sports and Youth has prepared a Bill on Sports. The draft was accepted by the Government in November 2007. This decision however was never presented to the public for some reason. According to Insider’s best knowledge, even though it was announced that privatization will be solved by another act, the public never learned that some basic solutions already exist. Namely, article 85 in the draft sent to the Serbian Assembly for discussion, says that a sports association could change its legal form only into an open shareholder association while a decision on legal form change is to be reached by the majority votes in the club’s assembly.
Snežana Marković-Samardžić, Minister for Sports and Youth, confirmed that the Government accepted this article but further argues this will not be applicable without separate Law on privatization.
Snežana Marković-Samardžić, Minister for Sports and Youth: There are people who invested, citizens too invested, you know this, in public property, and they invested too. People who invested their volunteer work for instance, into clubs in various ways, people who are the real fans of those clubs. I think they should be respected. Of course we will not allow, I’m telling you, it is envisaged, as you seen, Mister Dinkić initiated investigation of money origin during privatization and that’s…This will be applied also in cases of privatization of any part of a sports club or property and finally, during privatization in sports.
The problem however seems to be the bill assumes the creditors could register in shares their respective revenues, invested earlier in the club. The bill explicitly states that a priority in shares registration should be given to the creditors over the club members, officials, fans and sports association. In fact, if a club runs into debt, by applying this solution it could unofficially already become a property of the creditors. Creditors of our largest clubs are various banks, which most probably won’t be interested in owning football clubs. So, according to this solution, various tycoons will get their chance to buy clubs through buying-off the clubs’ loans.
Božidar Cerović, Red Star Board member from 2001-2005: This is a very suspicious conception, because there are different creditors. So, this is a very suspicious conception, and we know that in some previous phase, especially so during the 1990’s, there were a lot of volunteer creditors, that is, let’s make a deal wherein I will give you money which you don’t have to return, but when privatization takes place, you will give me a part of the ownership. So, this would be a wrong way very much so since it would not lead to an improvement in sports. It would be another matter if we choose, we would be then like England (England, entire Britain, Scotland, right) and we would be a country which would have for instance all clubs in the first league as shareholders associations.
According to cadastre, Red Star stadium Marakana is under pledge for loans of 13 million euros and 125 million dinars. During 2004, another pledge was put on the stadium for 2 million euros in Privredna Bank. The club made a series of loans under the stadium’s pledge from Meridian Bank, Centrobank and Privredna Bank Belgrade. A pledge is also held by Komercijalna Bank since 2006, when the officials of Red Star applied for two loans, each worth 1 million euros. Considering that revenues could be bought off, it’s logical that businessmen could buy off Red Star loans from the banks and in this way, through future shares registration, become owners of the club.
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: We will see what happens when law on sports becomes accepted, do you know how many sports workers do not have confirmations on investing into those clubs….Confirmations! The accounts are blocked and they deal with confirmations. I know of at least 10 clubs at present which have blocked accounts, some give some assets or favors, some inflate invoices…An assembly at present has 25 or 22 members, then these authorities by force or otherwise enforce that managerial board has 5 members, regulate by statute that the board could work if majority is present, let’s say, from the total number it’s three of them, while the decisions are valid when the majority reaches a decision. Imagine just tow men deciding in this way, and in this manner hundreds of thousands of euros of investments from that kind of people are being legalized and of course, tomorrow, when privatization happens, here they come with these confirmations and reports, here come the majority shareholders in all those clubs.
At present, businessmen are interested in take over of football clubs. In the beginning of the 1990’s, criminals and war veterans, on one hand, and the state officials on the other hand used to take over football clubs. These all point out to large financial interests. Politics, police, State Security, army are all present in the Serbian sports since 1945. Nor mechanisms or reasons changed much over the years. Red Star board reflected the state within the police, while Partizan board reflected the state within the army. Arkan was appointed in Red Star by political will because during the 1990’s Šešelj used to come to the stadium, in an effort to take over the “North”. Tigers trained at Red Star stadium. However, Željko Ražnatović Arkan was among the first to realize how much profit there was in football, hence in 1996 he took over a football club Obilić, and according to the testimonies of various football officials and referees, by threats and violence, he made Obilić into a champion of the former Yugoslavia.
Svetlana Ražnatović inherited the football club Obilić from her late husband, Željko Ražnatović Arkan. Since 2000, she is the club’s president. In 2003, during “Saber” operation, Svetlana Ražnatović was arrested for cooperation with the Zemun gang; she remained in custody for four months. The police filed a criminal charge against her, for illegal transfer sales of Obilić players, wherein she allegedly damaged the club and state for 11.3 million euros and $ 480.000. At the hearing in Special Prosecution, she said that immediately before the assassination of the Serbian prime minister, Dušan Spasojević approached her at the Obilić’s stadium, and asked of her to provide an alibi for him because something terrible will happen. The most famous folk singer, in addition to membership in Arkan’s Party of Serbian Unity, never declared her political preferences publicly. She attended promotions in favor of Velimir Ilić. She sang for 2007 New Year’s Eve celebration, organized by Democratic Party of Serbia. The investigation is still on-going, while the prosecution did not file any charges even after five years. After Insider reported she participated in fixing football games and illegal sale of players, her PR service, as reported by a daily journal Danas, announced that due to everyday stress, Svetlana’s health is being compromised, that she lost weight and therefore she left for Cyprus, to recover. It was emphasized she did not leave the country due to the investigation about football mafia.
In the past several years, nine football officials were murdered: the president of Obilić, two presidents of football club Zvezdara, three men from football club Bežanija, the owner of football club Železnik, president of football club Slavija from Novi Sad and secretary general of Yugoslav Football Association, Branko Bulatović. In 2004, unidentified attackers gun fired at Dragiša Binić, then the leading man in Obilić and former Red Star player.
Dragiša Binić, Red Star former player: I was coming home, around ten past two, there was a man waiting in front of my home, I couldn’t see well, I was parking my car, when I was to get out of it, there was this man only a meter away from my car, masked and with a gun in his hand, he was crossing the street, running towards me. When I saw him, I went straight down on the payment, in front of my car, he fired, missed, fired again and again, and while I was as a child, here, my hobby with guns turned out to be a good thing after all, I had a gun with me, a permit for a gun, of course, and I took my gun out and at that moment he tried to hide behind a bush, a meter from the car. I got up, and saw that man standing. I though he run away. He stood there and fired twice again, so he fired 5 times at me, and then I fired back, and I wounded him, but I didn’t know that I hit him. He left, ran away. We found blood traces by accident. The police found blood traces. And then they found traces of another man, who stood with this one, above. One trace was going down, one was returning back. That was the hardest thing, not knowing, I wondered for days and nights about the reason. I cannot find any… No reason.
B92: Why were you arrested in ‘Saber” operation?
Dragiša Binić, Red Star former player: Well, probably because I was in Obilić.
During “Saber” operation, Partizan players Dragoljub Jeremić and Danko Lazović were arrested, for their association with the Zemun gang. Their managers were, as reported, Dušan Spasojević and Mile Luković. Prior to “Saber” operation, in addition to these two, Milorad Ulemek Legija and Zoran Uskoković Skole were also active sports workers. Previously, Željko Ražnatović Arkan entered into the football business. At present, the members of the so-called Keka gang from New Belgrade are active. Having a criminal file was never an obstacle to many people to become owners or sponsors of football clubs in Serbia, or managers to players. The state institutions simply never dealt with this problem.
Football, that is, sports mafia represents a coupling of sports with criminal and politics. Profits made my clubs are hidden. Large earnings from players transfer sales go straight to the officials’ pockets and suspicious individuals who represent themselves as managers but actually do money laundering through sports of the money made through drug sales and other illegal businesses. Matches are fixed, and through betting places control, money is spinning in the circle of privileged. Sports competition, associations and organizations serve often as a screen so that individuals acquire money from the budget. Sports mafia endeavors are not being investigated at all. In addition to players, coaches, officials and criminals, this circle contains also prominent businessmen and politicians. Zvezdan Terzić, Žarko Zečević, Nenad Bjeković, Dragan Stojković Piksi, Tomislav Karadžić and Svetlana Ražnatović refused to discuss this subject for the Insider’s serial.