FK Partizan Belgrade were formed in late 1945, by the Yugoslavian Sports Association and were named after The Partisans - the Communist military in WWII Yugoslavia. It was originally the team of the Yugoslav People's Army, although they became independent of that military connection in the early fifties. They play, of course, in vertical black and white stripes.
Crvena Zvezda (that's Red Star Belgrade to you) with 25 - although they've won the last couple and are seem well on their way to catching them up. Famous former players include Stjepan Bobek, Dragan Mance, Branko Zebec, recent Chelsea stars Slaviša Jokanović and Mateja Kežman and one time Aston Villa misfit Savo Milosovic, as well as those two nippers Manchester United bought and them immediately loaned back to them last season.
They will also go down in History as playing the very first match in Champion's League History (then known as the European Champion's Cup) when they beat Sporting Lisbon 8-5 on aggregate back in 1955. They were also the first East European club to play in a European Cup final, when they lost to 2-1 to Real Madrid, despite taking an early lead.
Grobari - Serbian for grave diggers - a nickname given them by Red Star fans who likened their stripy strip to that of the uniform worn by cemetery hole excavators. To this effect there are many flags brandished at games featuring soily looking men with spades.
So powerful are the Grobari that they even caused the downfall of the club's sports director and general secretary when they boycotted all home games until they stepped down - an action that went on from 2005 till 2007.
OFK of Belgrade away at their gorgeoulsy ricketty stadium with its smashing view if the Danube a few days earlier, so felt it was my groundhopper's duty to check out Red Star. The match - also against OFK, a team with seemingly no more than two dozen fans - was so dull that at half time I managed to nip across the way and catch the second half of Partizan's game against Vojvodina, having to cross an enormous wall of police along the way.
Their most local of all local derbys is known internationally as the Eternal Derby, and ranks as one of the greats, alongside The Old Firm, the Rome Derby and any Istanbul city game - but especially Gala v Fener. The game's best ever attendance weighed in at 108,000, although health and safety issues and the threat of hooliganism has helped slash gates in recent years.
That being said, my two trips among the Grobari passed without hitch, and their wholehearted, lusty singing and seemingly endless selection of fully choreographed songs was at turns passionate, moving and funny. Go see them play if ever you're down that way or they're playing somewhere near you, because whatever the football is like, you'll rarely stand among a more exciting and noisy bunch of fans.
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