Yugoslavia's future provokes dispute

Wearing a Yugoslav football jersey, Zoran Vukovic, a 20-year old Montenegrin, was glued to the TV screen in Korzo bar in central Podgorica, eagerly watching this week’s Euro 2004 qualifier between Yugoslavia and Finland.

“We are too strong for the Finns, they have no chance against us, especially not on our turf.” Vukovic enthused. For him, “we” means the Yugoslavs, and “our field” is in Belgrade, the capital of the gradually splintering federal Yugoslavia, which, since 1992, has consisted only of Serbia and Montenegro.

The soccer match is, for Vukovic, a chance to show his support for a joint federation, probably the hottest issue in Montenegro, as the tiny republic faces legislative polls on Sunday. The leadership of Montenegro and its president Milo Djukanovic have for years called for the independence of this mountainous republic, whose 650 000 inhabitants have been deeply divided over this issue.

When in March, Belgrade and Podgorica signed an EU-brokered accord, replacing the rump Yugoslavia with a loose alliance between Serbia and Montenegro, the separatist calls were put off for at least three years.

The Yugoslav team started the match sluggishly, and Vukovic’s friend Milan Radovic was quick to display the sort of wry humour which can be heard among suffering soccer fans the world over.
“The national team plays bad, like the Yugoslav federation,” he said.

Shortly before the start of the match on Wednesday, a group of supporters of the independence-seeking Liberal Alliance walked past the bar, waving red flags, symbol of Montenegrin nationalists, and headed towards Podgorica’s main square where the party was to hold a rally.

“This is a provocation, to hold a separatist rally during the Yugoslav national team’s match,” Vukovic complained. But for the Liberals and their supporters the Yugoslav national team is an anachronism. “We do not watch it any more, we want to have a Montenegrin national football team,” said young Liberal Petar Kvakic.

He said Montenegrins felt like a “minority,” compared to the 10-million population of the dominant republic. “Anyway, I heard that, at the start of the match in Belgrade, fans shouted ‘Serbia, Serbia,’ and not Yugoslavia, which only proves that they don’t want us either,” Kvakic said.

But the Liberals’ rally, held only three days before the polls, seemed a fiasco. Less than 1 000 people gathered for the protest. The organisers were disappointed.

The rally ended after less than an hour, just as the match in Belgrade came to an end, with Yugoslavia winning 2-0.

“Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia… I told you that we are too strong,” two pro-Yugoslav fans in the Corso bar chanted. - Sapa-AFP

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