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News 25 Aug 17

Serbian President's Football Advice to Child Draws Laughter

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been mocked on social media for advising a child in Croatia to root for football clubs in Serbia – rather than for those closer to home.

Sven Milekic
Aleksandar Vucic talking to Tino, a 7-year-old child from the Croatian coastal city of Rijeka.

Social media users from Croatia and Serbia have ridiculed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for suggesting to a young footfall fan from Croatia that he should root for the Belgrade football clubs Crvena Zvezda and Partizan rather than for a home team.

While hosting a group of Serbian children from Croatia in his office in Belgrade on Thursday, Vucic told a seven-year-old child by the name of Tino from the coastal city of Rijeka not to root for the local football club HNK Rijeka, but for “greater clubs”, such as Crvena Zvezda and Partizan.

“Tino, you have to find some better club to support – let it be [Crvena] Zvezda or Partizan,” Vucic told Tino.

He also told Tino that he expected him to love "beautiful" Belgrade as much as Rijeka in the future.

“Let me tell you something, on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and beyond, Belgrade is more beautiful than any other city … It’s two times bigger than Zagreb, almost three Zagrebs can dwell in one Belgrade, while five Sarajevos can dwell in one Belgrade,” Vucic boasted.

Bojan Glavasevic, an opposition MP in Croatia, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Vucic “has a new political role model”, explaining that it reminded him of how Croatia’s then President, Franjo Tudjman, gave footballing advice to a Croatian child named Matija.

Croatian 1990s President Franjo Tudjman talking to a child by the name of Matija.

After Croatia separated from Yugoslavia in 1991, Tudjman ordered the Zagreb football club "Dinamo" to change its Socialist-era name to something more obviously patriotic.

The club first changed the name to Hask Gradjanski in 1992 and then to NK Croatia in 1993.

When Matija said he still rooted “for Dinamo”, Tudjman picked up Matija in his arms and explained that he should be rooting for "Croatia" and not for "Dinamo".

“Let me explain something to you … Are you from Zagreb? You have a Dinamo [team] in the Serbian [town of] Pancevo, in Albania's Tirana and everywhere else, you know? So now, root for Croatia,” Tudjman instructed the child.

On Thursday, another Twitter user, Aleksandar Rudic, mocked Vucic’s background as a supporter of Crvena Zvezda.

“Does anybody know if Vucic told the kid from Rijeka that he proudly fought with the Armada [the name for Rijeka supporters]. And that he was one against a hundred of them,” he wrote.

A Twitter user by the name of Bata joked about the way Vucic spoke to the children from Croatia, implying that he might now well advise them to start putting logs on the roads as well.

He was recalling events from 1990, when Serb rebels against Croatian independence put log barricades on the roads to block traffic to the Croatian coast.

“Vucic: Children, when you come back to Croatia, you should root for Zvezda or Partizan just for spite. And tomorrow you should lay logs, if necessary,” Bata wrote.

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