Saturday, August 4, 2012

Yugoslavia next. May be arbitrary choice, may be not. No dispute about the well respected qualities of Yugoslavian football, but 1976-77 was hardly remarkable season. The summer of 1976 was disappointing – the national team was expected to win the European Championship on home turf, but ended forth. Crvena zvezda did not win the championship since 1973. Partizan was not convincing for quite many years. Some of the better clubs in the early 1970s either halted their improvement, or declined. Yet, Yugoslavia was still the biggest exporter of players in Europe. The question, then, was how deep really was the well of talent. At a glance, the picture was not rosy: rapidly not only the well known stars, but also younger, but rather ordinary, players were leaving the country. The national team was no longer able to use only domestic players. The European Championship finals did not elevate new Yugoslavian names to international stardom. These were worrying signs, especially when the strongholds remained the same: the axis was still Serbia – Croatia. Macedonia did not even have first division club.

Vardar (Skopje), traditionally the strongest Macedonian club, good only for second division football by now. First row, from left: Micevski, P. Georgievski, Zubac, V. Spasovski, Rajcevski.

Standing: Grncarov, Filipovski, Janevski, V. Nikolic, Andreevski, Gruevski.

Bunch of unknowns really. Grncarov was perhaps their best player – he became a club legend eventually, but obviously his talent was not sufficient for winning a promotion. If anything, at least a rare look at second league Yugoslavian football. Which produced winners, promoted to the top:

Trepca (Kosovska Mitrovica) and

NK Osijek (Osijek).

If Osijek were somewhat familiar club, meandering between second and first division, the club from Kosovo was a debutant. Neither club was expected to shake the status quo – rather, the newcomers spelled out gloomy future. If this was the best coming to top league, Yugoslavian football was indeed in trouble.