I’d never been hit by the police until this game. In the past, the police merely questioned on the street occasionally. But it always irritated me. That interaction was all about to change when we got to this game. It was the Saturday following the Red Star game and on the advice of our friend Addy, Jan and I were stood with the SK Sarajevo Ultras near old-town Sarajevo drinking before the local derby against Zeljeznicar. Frky introduced himself and chatted away, asking about us, why we were there. Frky was a law student at the university and asked me about the Newcastle Sarajevo game in 2002. I couldn’t actually remember it. He talked about what happens before the games, where the meeting point was and not to worry about being in the fans’ north end. The others were generally more circumspect though they took great interest in my Newcastle United tattoo. Once they knew we were friends with Addy, they relaxed somewhat.
We met up with Alam and Diego and walked to the game. The walk to the stadium for a big game is always exciting. It was a derby game dividing central and eastern Sarajevo. Similar to the game in Belgrade, the league was gone. RK Sarajevo had to win to get a Europa league spot and local pride on the line. Reaching the stadium, we bought tickets from the office for 2.5 euros for the ultras end. I was taking my SLR. I wanted the pictures again and figured we’d be safe enough. We had Frky on our side but the real dangers were outside the ground.
Firstly a riot policeman thought I shouted an insult as he passed. He stopped, towered over me and said something with a real sneer. I replied ‘tourist’ and ‘no Bosnian’ but he took this for a Bosnian being clever and continued his words. (Thanks to the RK fan next to me who failed to own up to his comments and let me take the look!!). Soon after while queuing up, the police arrested a fan. When the police van arrived, another fan slapped the side of it shouting ‘ultras, ultras’. In a second, the police descended on the queue. panic ensued and everyone turned to run. I turned only to meet a policeman running my way and he slapped his truncheon across my back as I jumped down a ledge. The policeman stood over me for a second then walked away breathing heavily. Jan got hit too after avoiding two attempts. The storm passed quickly and soon enough we were in the stadium but the adrenaline was still pumping.
Inside we sat down and I looked around. Its noticeable how few fans wear the club shirt, mostly prefer their own dress or various club-related t-shirts, bought from markets. The fans were a mixed of men, kids and young women. Everyone knew the songs which like the Red Sar game didn’t relate to the match. Few commented on what was happening. Joints were being smoked. There were more women, more young fans in the stands. The atomsphere was more jovial than the previous week.
The game was good, finishing 2-2. RK blew a 2-0 lead but finished the game stronger and could have won it. When they scored, flares were lit and riotous joy broke out. Similarly to the Red Star, the supporters actually have a cheerleader at the front who organises the chants. And again around the 50th minute, tens of flares were lit, obscuring any view of the game. We filed out into the evening warmth, meeting up with Alam (who thought we were crazy to go in the north end) and Diego. I needed some water and to de-stress.
That evening we drank and stayed out late. I woke up the next morning and checked my back. I was kinda disappointed I didn’t have a war wound! Alas I still had the rakija hangover!