Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The rule was destined to fail from the very beginning: since every Yugoslav had the right to work abroad if so wished, to permit only former national players to go abroad appeared discriminatory exception. So, this was challenged successfully and lesser players also went abroad. But what players, who were not stars by Yugoslav standards, yet locally were considered stars – say, in Slovenia? Let them go. But what about those who were not even potential national players? What harm could be, if letting them work elsewhere? Since 25-years electrician could go to work in West Germany, why 25-years old insignificant player should stay home when he has an offer from Second- or Third- Division Western club? Tough… if permitting a young journeyman to go West when keeping a star at home, the nobody ends making more money than the star. So, this apparently was kept in the dark, probably discreetly and semi-legally dealt with by the clubs. After all, a 25-years can ‘quit’ football, pose as electrician, go to the West and hire himself as a football player. Probably the clubs themselves organized such schemes, yet, there was more: the children of Yugoslavians working in the West, often born in Yugoslavia, but growing up elsewhere. Usually they started playing football abroad and eventually joined professional teams without ever playing Yugoslav club football. By 1970 the first vintage of such players emerged – and there was nothing to make them following Yugoslavian rules. But they were Yugoslav citizens, and therefore, foreign players in West Germany or wherever they were.

The new breed: Slobodan Topalovic, born in Yugoslavia and Yugoslav citizen, debuted in West Germany, playing for FC Koln in 1974-75 season. He eventually played in Yugoslavia too – joining OFK Beograd (Belgrade) in 1979.