The Slovenia Times

Football is Symbolic



We had four major football clubs then, the Fabulous Four - Dinamo (Zagreb) and Hajduk (Split) from Croatia and Crvena zvezda (Red Star) and Partizan, both from Belgrade. Other teams, including Olimpija, were more or less secondary. Nevertheless, Olimpija was a team to be respected. I remember attending a match in Ljubljana's Bezigrad stadium between Olimpija and Crvena zvezda, along with 20,000 other enthusiasts. The Slovenian team won 2:0. Olimpija was definitely a symbol of those times. Sadly, in 2004, that symbol faded away forever. The Olimpija Football Club has fallen apart. Olimpija has gone. There is no FC Olimpija anymore. Football fans from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and other parts of the former Yugoslavia could not believe it when they heard the news. "I thought that our country would fall apart sooner than clubs like Crvena zvezda or Partizan," said a friend from Belgrade. Football is a way of life south of the Kolpa River along the Slovene-Croat border. Dusan Radovic, a poet, writer and journalist from Belgrade once wrote: "When Partizan and Crvena zvezda are playing each other, Belgrade becomes the most intelligent city in the world. All the idiots are in the football stadium watching the game." Football may or may not be for idiots, however, the fact remains that this is a game or sport that captivates billions of people all over the world. And it is one of the world's biggest businesses as well. Mico Mrkaic, economist and columnist with the Slovenian financial daily, Finance, has estimated the value of the ten best World Cup teams. He calculated that the average value of a player from the first eleven varied from EUR 9 m for the Czech players to EUR 24 m for the Brazilians. Mrkaic said: "Even the average Czech football player is worth nine million euro, which is an enviable sum for an average Slovenian SME. This comparison is sad, because it tells us very brutally and very directly, how small and globally insignificant our economy is." Mrkaic's observation relates not just to the Slovenian economy as a whole but also to its football economy. The total attendance at all the games during the last round of this year's national football league, which decided the championship, was only 4,500. Slovenia has definitely slipped back into football's Dark Ages since Srecko Katanec & Zlatko Zahovic left the scene. Maybe it's just as well that "my" Olimpija is not around to experience the misery.


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