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Sunday, 13 April 2014

FK MLADOST PODGORICA (ex: OFK Titograd, or ex: FK Mladost Titograd)

(April 5, 2014 – Podgorica)

FK Mladost is not a team from Bosnia, but from Montenegro. However, I believe that those who are interested in Bosnian football culture would also enjoy reading something about football in Montenegro. Apparently, both countries have common political, historical and cultural traits, and having a common Yugoslav past is one of the important junctions where both countries share similar patterns in football culture.
Çemovsko Polje and the surrounding Dinaric Alps.
When compared with the scale of the country, Montenegro has a relatively successful national football team. They ranked at 3rd place behind England and Ukraine in FIFA 2014 qualifying group chalking up a total 15 points. The other teams in the group were Poland, Moldova and San Marino. On the other side Montenegrin football league is considered as one of the low quality one according to UEFA ranking where they stand at 42nd place above Liechtenstein and below Iceland. But they are a bit better this season, since they were at 43rd place last year.
Years ago, Botaşspor from Adana (Southern Turkey) the sports club of the Iraq-Turkey crude petrol pipeline company, which was quite famous with Women Basketball Team, where I also was a licensed swimmer for a while, decided to establish a football club. As was the case for the female basketball team, the first players of the football team were the children of the employees of the company. Although we moved from Adana to Ankara in 1987, I used to keep on spending overall one month of a year as part of my winter and summer holidays in Adana, in Botaş. Like any other teenager, I was playing football with my friends just before the sunset, when the Mediterranean sun was just to lose its sharpness. From time to time, we used to watch the training matches of Botaşspor.

There was a player in the team. Let’s keep his name anonymous and use a nick name: Orhan. Orhan was a good player; he was playing with his heart. But his passion was causing him to leave his territory from time to time which was making the trainer a bit mad about it. Trainer calls him: “Orhan!” Orhan does not hear. Trainer increases his voice: “Orhaaan!” No reply from Orhan. Trainer calls him with his voice at optimum level: “ORHAAAAAN, to whom I am calling hah?!” Finally, Orhan turns his face to trainer: “What the!” Surely, an unexpected reply from the player which makes the spectators to laugh a lot, and trainer is unsurprisingly calm: “You will see the”.

After many years, a similar scene in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro takes me to the memories…
FK Mogren Budva is playing against the team of the capital city; FK Mladost Podgorica. The defender right wing player of Mogren is a handsome young man. He does not play bad. His timing in interference, his sense of keeping ground is quite well but he just looks a little bit unserious. His hand is always on his shorts, pulling it down in search for following low-hip fashion trend. His levity makes the trainer mad. Trainer calls him: “Jovane”. Jovan does not hear. Trainer increases his voice: “Jovaneeee!” No reply from Jovan. Trainer calls him with his voice at optimum level: “JOVANEEEEEEE?!” Finally, Jovan turns his face to trainer: “Jebote Jovane.” ( your Jovan) We laugh in the rows and the trainer silently goes back to benches.

Mogren was leading the match 1-0 away when this anecdote appeared, which took me to memories. However, at the end Mogren lost 3-2 and I do not have an idea what kind of communication occurred between Jovan and trainer in the dressing room.
Geographical location of Montenegro and the mountains topography of the country.
Montenegro is a small country. Just about 13 thousand square kilometers. But distances are far. Deserving the name, Montenegro is surrounded by high and sharp rocky mountains.

When I left Sarajevo ahead to Podgorica, to attend the conference organized by Montenegrin Academy of Sports, ( I already had a pre-vision that it would be a journey that would stem some nostalgic memories. One night before, when I checked the web site of the bus company I was quite surprised that O303 Mercedes buses, which were produced in early 1990’s in Turkey were still in charge in intercity roads, even in inter-national routes.

When I was in the bus station in the morning, another surprise was waiting for me. I would not be travelling to Podgorica from Sarajevo by a bus, but by a midibus for seven hours! The midibus was one of the first exemplars of Iveco which were produced by Otoyol in Turkey in 1990’s.

Since for a long time I do not calculate the distances in Balkans in terms of kilometers. If so, then it is very likely that you may face some small surprises. You have to take notice on duration of the travel rather than the distance. Then, for example, the 250 kilometers of travel which will take seven hours will not make you to be psychologically tired of travelling. It is not only the vehicle which makes the duration longer, but also the topography. Montenegro really deserves her name and curvy road through the sharp mountains is not an exception. But what a panoramic view!

On the contrary to general topography of Montenegro, Podgorica was established on a plain. The name Podgorica means “Down the Mount Gorica”. Podgorica is located a flat plain, but surrounded by mountains.

Road to Podgorica from Sarajevo by the bench of River Piva.
One of the numerous tunnels on the road.

The population of Podgorica is almost 170 thousands. But it is a capital city! According to tourist guides, it is a waste of time to visit Podgorica. Indeed, the city was not of importance before Tito Era, with a population of 10-15 thousands. The city’s population had dramatically increased in Tito era, while the city’s name was replaced to Titograd; City of Tito.

Podgorica stays under the shadow of Montenegro’s tourist attracted historical cities on the coast like Budva, Kotor, and Herceg Novi. Podgorica does not have a coast, the night life is stagnant and the life is without any spirit after 23:00 and for sure, only one from Ankara, which shares the same attributions, may enjoy Podgorica.

Podgorica should be loved. If one wants to claim that he/she has been in Montenegro, he/she has to visit Podgorica. Moreover, he/she should make a journey through those mountains to Serbia or to Bosnia, preferably with those outdated buses. Only than he/she can claim that he/she has been in Podgorica.
The University of Montenegro arranged a tour in the last day of the symposium to a historical monastery about 15 kilometers to the city center. Some colleagues did not want to miss the opportunity to visit the historical temple. What a coincidence that, at that time there was a football match in Podgorica as well. Certainly, the temple of a football fan is not a monastery! To be honest, I have to confess that I had a dilemma between going to the football match, and going to that historical monastery. The other day, I have realized that experiencing a city in my case began to be limited only to experience the gastronomic and footballist affluences. I am slightly considering making a change. Probably it would be easier for me to retreat from different tastes but footbalism is a difficult to be treated sickness. That, frankly speaking, even before leaving from Sarajevo I took the notes about matches to be played in Montenegro, and I have to confess that it was not coincidence.

While my colleagues were on the way to the historical monastery, I was already in Çemovsko Polje (Çemovsko plain), which also known as the Stari Aerodrom (old airport). 

Montenegrin First League involves 12 teams. FK Mladost Podgorica is the 10th on the table with 23 points, and will play against FK Mogren Budva 11th on the table with 22 points. The other team of the capital city; FK Buduçnost will have an away match against Rudar Pljevlija, a team from Sandjak region on the North of Montenegro. Rudar means “miner” which already evokes sympathy. Pljevlija is also like the homeland of my wife’s father’s side. 

Buduçnost is the leading team of Podgorica. They do not play their matches in plain or on meadow, but in the biggest stadium of the city; “Podgorica Stadium”. In fact, Buduçnost have always been supported by the city elites. I do not know if they have got a story of being promoted to a higher league by military regime but they always had more fans than Mladost. (1) The colors of the team are navy blue and white. If it would be yellow instead of white, it would be more ironical. The “other” team has the red color. (2) The more striking fact is the name of the team with the red color: Mladost Podgorica means Youth of Podgorica, also resembles that of Gençlerbirliği, which literally means Union of Juvenile or Union of Youth. Is it possible that a man from Ankara, a fan of Gençlerbirliği will not have some passion towards that team?

Next to the 1500 capacity stadium of Mladost in Çemovsko Polje, there is the management building and training field of Buduçnost.

The rows are not full just before the match. There are around 150 fans that came to watch the match in a rainy day.

Mladost playing against Mogren. Behin the pitch the administrative building of Buducnost on the left, and their training fild behind, and Mladost's administrative building on the right.

FK Mladost was established in 1950 with the name FK Mladost Titograd. The name was changed into OFK Titograd (Olympic Football Club) in 1960. In 1990, the name was turned into Mladost again. But this time the name Titograd was replaced with Podgorica due to change in city’s name. The biggest success of Mladost in Yugoslav Football League was a fourth rank in the second division in 1956-57. Mladost’s history is the story of relegations to third division, and promotion to second division. During Miloşeviç’s Yugoslavia, when only the teams from Serbia and Montenegro participated in the Yugoslav league, they succeeded to be fourth in the second division twice during the last two seasons. 

Since Montenegro became independent in 2006, their biggest success was to be the fifth rank in 2010-11, but it has to be noticed that in even the miniature Montenegrin football league, they have played in second division for two years.

This season have historical contributions to the club’s history: For the first time in history, Mladost participated in European cups. They have passed Hungarian Videoton after the first qualification matches, and Slovakian FK Senica after the second qualification matches of the UEFA Europa League. But in the third qualification, they have crashed into Spain’s famous Sevilla after 6-1 home and 3-0 away defeats. This season, FK Mladost Podgorica struggles not to be relegated to the second division of Montenegro.

In this context, the match Mogren and Mladost is a match for “6 points”. If they will lose, Mogren will be two points above Mladost. If not, than the difference between two teams will increase to five points which will be a great advantage for Mladost.

Wandering around the club’s building, I meet with a veteran player of Mladost. I had a short football chat with him. I asked him about the hero of my teenager years; Dejan Saviçeviç. The legendary player of legendary Red Star who won the UEFA Cup in 1991, who has been the chairman of the Montenegrin Football Association since the independency of Montenegro. I was trembled when I heard that Dejan Saviçeviç would come to watch the match the match since his son is playing for Mladost. How is it possible not to tremble! Is it possible to forget a legendary player who was first playing in Red Star and then in Milan, and the reason behind my choice to be manager of Milan in the earliest versions of the “Championship Manager”? How delightful would it be to meet with him after years!

The famous driblings of the legendary Savicevic:

The unforgettable part of the interview with Savicevic in Zagreb:

As soon as I had the information, I went to VIP section. I will do my best to meet with Savicevic. It was not that much difficult to enter in the VIP section. A club officer on duty asked me:”Where are you going?” Relying on the sympathy of speaking his language as a foreigner, I asked him if I could watch the match in VIP since it is raining and it is the only covered part of the stadium. He asks where I was from, and I replied: “I am Turkish but I live in Sarajevo”. Probably it is not very common to see some Turks coming to visit to watch a match of Mladost. He turns to VIP tribune and asks the oldies in the tribune if there is a place for a Turk. The VIP tribune, almost full of elder fans is a bit surprised but yet hospitable. They even gave me a piece of newspaper to put over the seat. What a VIP tribune! I feel almost like among the “ihtiyarlar” (oldies) in Gençlerbirliği tribunes. I seat in between footballcholic oldies which are like our Hamdi Reis, Necdet Abi and Ozan Abi.  
The "oldies" in Mladost tribune.

...and our oldies.
Before coming to the match I have had a basic research about Mladost in web and learned that the fans of Mladost call themselves “Romanticari” (Romantics). I asked to one of the oldies if he is “romantic”. The reply is simple and clear: “I do not know, ask it to my wife”.

Oldies are a bit curious about me. It can be considered as a normal act to visit Podgorica for a symposium, but it was quite difficult for me to convince them that the one and only aim of mine to come to Çemovsko Polje in a rainy day is to watch a match. They are quite stubborn to assume that I am a scout. I somehow managed to tell the truth in difficulty. In the meantime, rain quites down and the rows on the left and right side of the VIP section begin to welcome fans. It seems the 150-200 fans overall do not enjoy disturbing the football players. They are so calm during the match. 

Maybe they do not like to cheer for the team, but they watched the game with an optimum attention during the whole match. Different than what I usually do, instead of watching the fans, I decide to watch the game on the pitch.

During the first quarter of the match, Mogren seemed to be more effective. The Yugoslav school of football could heavily be felt. Both of the teams prefer to make short passes in their own side of the pitch and try to aim goal with long, side balls and whenever they lose the ball in those attacks, they do not hesitate to make Yugoslav fault. Despite the position in the European ranking, both teams perform a very tough game, but still in a virtuous style. The young players from both of the teams play not only with their muscles, but also with their brains and with their hearts. However, Mogren players seem to be a bit more willing. I get the information that Mogren club could not pay the salaries of football players for a long time, since the club passes through serious financial problems

Mogren players were able to use the ball with vertical and cross passes in their own half of the pitch. Since they realized that Mladost players were not as willing as they are, they began to organize the game closer to the midfield, going forward as a block. The left wing defender Luka Pejovic, with the dress number 16 was a key player for the fast attacks. In fact he is one of the most experienced players in the team: 29 years old and has a national squad experience in his career.

Although Mogren was more effective in the first half of the game, the player of Mladost with the dress number 9 began to take my attention as well. During rare attacks of Mladost, this young man creates serious problems alone for Mogren defense. I got some information from the fans about him that his name is Stefan Mugoşa and he is recognized as the best player in the squad. The 22 years old Mugoşa have 5 appearances in U-21 squad of the Montenegrin national football team, scoring 3 goals. (3) He took part in the squad of Montenegrin national football team as a substitute when Montenegro lost 2-5 against Moldova at home on October 15, 2013. Mugoşa plays as an attacking midfielder and takes attention with his self-confident, modest posture. I have learned that Red Star is keeping an eye on him, but it is also know that the Belgrade team also has serious financial problems.

Stefan Mugosa:

Another player who takes my attention in Mladost is Radule Zivkovic whose dress number is 2 and reminds me legendary right wing defender of Beşiktaş; Recep Çetin aka Takoz (chock) Recep who was the best right wing defender in his time and he was recognized by his tough tackles which would not allow left wing attackers to pass him. Like Takoz Recep, Zivkovic does not hesitate to send the ball as far as possible by kicking the bottom part of the ball and his strong posture with relatively short height and wide chest with a similar appearance to those Irish boxers reminds him more like Takoz Recep.

Vladimir Savicevic, the son of legendary player Dejan Savicevic, with dress number 10 is at the focus of Mladost fans. I am curious if he is playing in the team because he has talent, or is it thanks to his father. Fans claim that he is really good, but I could not witness it during the match.

Mogren had a rapid start in the second half of the game. By 56th minute they were just to score the first goal of the match. Just two minutes after that they found it by Milan Durisic. They even missed a very close goal. After the goal, Mogren players show signs to be exhausted or not any more willing.

Until then, the right wing defender of Mogren with dress number 15 was also taking attention with his performance. He has a very good timing and he is very good in sweeping the ball from his zone. His name is Jovan Baoşiç, whom I have quoted above his reply to the trainer of the team. Although he was playing well, minutes passing by, he loses his seriousness in the game. He is just 19 years old, at the beginning of his career, but since he loses his seriousness, his performance in the game declines. And during the last half an hour of the game, the left wing for Mladost attackers turns to be a free-to-pass corridor. The trainer of the team asks him: “Jovane, hoçeş li kafu?” means “Jovan, do you want a coffee?”

Sun shows its face in the second half and had a vitalizing effect on the players, but it seems that it has only affected Mladost players. Finally by the 72nd minute Mugoşa, the star of Mladost denests the ball among two Mogren defenders and scores with a nice short drop shot into the net.  Just 6 minutes after that goal, he scores one more with a head kick to a cross coming from the right wing and  shows that 189 centimeter tall Mugoşa is also not bad with high balls. It is now 2-1.

Mogren is under shock, but it is not enough. Just one minute after this goal, Mugoşa scores one more and reaches hat-trick within 7 minutes and carries his team to 3-1 from 0-1. The man of the game Mugoşa scored three goals, but it seems he does not lose anything from his posture, goes on playing serious and keeps his modesty. On the other side, it is visible that his stamina is not that good.
In 90+2, Durisic, the scorer player of Mogren scores for his team but it is too much late to turn the game, which results with a 3-2 victory for the home team Mladost.

My biggest expectation from the match was not realized. Probably, because of the rainy weather, Dejan Savicevic did not come to watch the game, but my heart begins to beat for another team from Balkans. Moreover, in this small country, I had the joy to watch the match with a handful of nice and kind people who are in love with a modest team.
PS 1) This ironic paragraph refers to rivalry between Gençlerbirliği and Ankaragücü in Turkey’s capital city. Gençlerbirliği had always been a smaller club with less fan support and Ankaragücü has always been more popular club of the city. Military regime’s efforts to promote Ankaragücü to the top league in Turkey have also to be noticed to perceive the irony behind those sentences.

PS 2) Refers to the colors of Ankaragücü which are yellow and navy blue, and Gençlerbirliği has black-red.

PS 3) During the days when I was writing this article, Tanıl Bora, a significant intellectual in Turkey, who writes every Tuesday to Turkish daily newspaper Radikal about football, wrote an article titled: “Establish a team, with less Scorpio, and more Cancer” about the relationship between astrology and football. A quotation from the article: “The squad of Gençlerbirliği is full of Pisces (Ahmet, Gosso, Nizamettin, Petroviç, Yusuf Emre). Diagnosis for those Pisces who play in their position: A type of a player who can do any job which is needed, can be a multidirectional player, or can get lost if he will not able to find his position”

Maguşa’s birthdate is February 26, 1992. A Pisces. I do not believe in astrology, but would be good for those who believe in astrology to know that.

PS 4) When I was writing this article, Mladost and Mogren played again in Podgorica on April 9, 2014 for the first leg of the semi-final of the Montenegrin Cup and Mladost was victorious again with 2-0. One of the goals was from Mugoşa.

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