Thursday, April 03, 2003

Basketball Wars

Today's semi-final game of Goodyear Basketball League between KK Zadar (Croatia) and Red Star Belgrade (Serbia-Montenegro) has been almost abandoned due to crowd trouble. The game was held on presumably neutral venue in Ljubljana, Slovenia. However, presence of large contingents of Serbian and Croatian fans in Tivoli Sports Centre created an atmosphere reminiscent of former Yugoslav sports stadiums immediately before 1991 break-up. But the fight between Serbs and Croats was mostly verbal, at least until the moment when Red Star fans – notorious "Delije", best known as Arkan's recruiting base – began throwing pyrotechnic devices in the field, hitting KK Zadar assistant coach in the process.

Slovenian police and security made almost fatal error when they allowed group of Serbian fans to enter the hall in half-time. Many of them were not checked for pyrotechnics devices. In 2nd half the game was interrupted and it took almost hour and half of unpleasant standoff before the Serbian fans gave up their ground and left the hall.

Their act, however, led to Red Star losing the won game. The incident has happened when Red Star was on its way to increase huge lead over KK Zadar. But the long pause allowed KK Zadar players and coaching staff to design new strategy and win the game in the last minutes.

Of course, following this ugly incidents, there would be many calls for Croatian clubs to leave Goodyear League. This would be foolish, because the alternative to this competition would be decay of Croatian basketball. Besides, Maccabi Tel Aviv doesn't mind playing in this league, despite being forced to play outside home and in front increasingly anti-Semitic audiences.

I hope that KK Zadar wins the final game. That would silence anti-Goodyear League forces, at least for time being.


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