Football in Serbia

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Football is the most popular sport in Serbia. The Football Association of Serbia (FSS) is the national governing body and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the game of football in the country, both professional and amateur. The association organizes the professional Serbian Superliga (top tier) and is responsible for appointing the management of the men's, women's and youth national football teams in Serbia. The association also organizes the Serbian First League (second) and Serbian League (third), operating the top 3 leagues.

The FSS is also responsible for organizing the Serbian Cup, the country's league cup competition.

It has been played from the beginning of the 20th century and there were a number of very successful Serbian football players and coaches throughout history. One of Serbia's top football clubs FK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) has won the prestigious European Champions Cup in the season 1990-1991 and has also won the Intercontinental Cup the same year.

The most successful and popular teams are Red Star Belgrade and FK Partizan.


The beginning[edit]

Football first came to Serbia in the spring of 1896 when Jewish student Hugo Buli, after he returned from his studies in Germany, brought the first football to Belgrade. He brought the ball to his friends from the Belgrade gymnastics society Soko, and founded the football section on 12 May.[1]

The inaugural meeting of the First Serbian Football Society (Prvo srpsko društvo za igranje loptom) took place on 1 May 1899, at the restaurant "Trgovačka kafana", at initiative of Mr. Hugo Buli, and with support of Mr. Andra Nikolić, who was then Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Serbia. Feti Bey, the Turkish consul in Belgrade was elected as President, and the lawyer Mihailo Živadinović as the Vice-President. On spring of 1899 the first football field was built in the Topčider neighbourhood of Belgrade, and the first match was played in May that year between two teams of the members of the football society.[2]

Most of the first Serbian football clubs were multi-sports societies which included football sections. The first football club was founded nn May 3, 1901, in Subotica, the Sports Athletic Club Bačka. More than two years later, notably on 14 September 1903, the football club Šumadija was founded in Kragujevac. It is obvious that the Subotica club was older, however, at the time of the foundation of "Bačka", the city of Subotica was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Kragujevac was on the territory of Serbia. Therefore "Bačka" is the oldest club in nowadays Serbia, while "Šumadija" is the oldest Serbian club. Just foollowing the foundation of Šumadija, Soko was founded in Belgrade, and it is the first football club from the capital. Since then several other clubs were formed such as Srpski mač in 1906, BSK Belgrade in 1911 and Velika Srbija (Greater Serbia, later renamed to SK Jugoslavija) in 1913.[3]

The national team of Serbia has played its first match on 19 May 1911, against Zagreb's club HAŠK and lost by 0:8. The next day, on 20 May, against the same team they played the second match, which they also lost, by 0:6. The newspapers from Zagreb reported from these matches with credits to the Serbian team for its efforts and braveness to challenge the better and experienced rival. The Serbian newspapers already then showed that the Serbian public does not easily accept defeat, showing great criticism.

On club level, despite an absence of a real championship, the fact is that at that the public and the press had a the perception about the best club in each period having in mind the number of matches and the results, and it was usual to acknowledge which was the title holder (named in the press by using the German expression "Meister Maschaft") and who were the pretenders.[4] In spring of 1914 the Serbian Olympic Committee organised the first ever trophy to be played among the best football clubs of the Kingdom of Serbia. It was played in a single-round bobin system, and in the final held in Belgrade it was won by SK Velika Srbija.[5] This seemed to be a promising start of an organised football tournament to be held regularly, however later that same year the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war against Serbia in what will be the beginning of the First World War and the hault of all recreational and sports activities in Serbia.

Between the two World Wars[edit]

At the end of the First World War the boundaries in the region were changed and the Serbian state already joined by the Kingdom of Montenegro was united with other south-Slavic inhabited territories of Austro-Hungary to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later in 1929 renamed into Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Football Association ("Jugoslovenski nogometni savez") was founded at a meeting in Zagreb, on 18 April 1919. The founding assembly was presided by Mr. Danilo Stojanović, popularly known as "Čika Dača", important because he was the founder of several football clubs such as Šumadija, BSK and others.

In 1919 the Belgrade Football Subassociation formed the first league tournament that started being held regularely since its inaugural season in 1919–20. The first Yugoslav state championship was launched in 1923. The championships were played until 1940, and in this period the best Serbian clubs won seven state championship titles: BSK five and SK Jugoslavija two. The interruption of the championship occurred due to disagreements between the sub-associations, which culminated in 1929 when the YFA Assembly was dissolved. The differences were resolved in February 1930, after three months of crisis. An extraordinary Assembly was convened, and it took place in Zagreb on 16 May 1930. It was voted that the association's headquarters be moved to the state capital, Belgrade, and that the name of the association would be changed into Yugoslav Football Association ("Fudbalski savez Jugoslavije"). BSK, along with HŠK Građanski, dominated the state scene until the beginning of World War II.

This period was marked by the mass popularization of football. The national league was dominated by clubs from Belgrade and Zagreb, but within Belgrade major rivalry was created between BSK and Jugoslavija (Reds and Blues respectively) creating what will be the Eternal derby of that period. The rivalry expanded throughout the country, more intensly in Serb populated areas but in others as well, dividing citizens between Reds and Blues. Best league players became real media stars, and some became real hartbreakers among the female population, as was Bane Sekulić.[6]

The year of 1935 marked the professionalization of football in Yugoslavia, with the replacement of amateur status to the professional one, and the introduction of contracts for players.[7]

On the assembly of the Yugoslav Football Association held on October 1, 1939, a decition was made to rename the FA into Serbian Football Association, after earlier that year the FA´s of Croatia and Slovenia were formed, and the delegates of Ljubljana, Osijek, Split and Zagreb subassociations decided to abandon the Yugoslav Football Association.[8]

Between the end of WWII and the early 1990s[edit]

The end of the war was the beginning of the reconstruction, and the devastated football grounds and stadia, as well as the football clubs needed to be restored. On 25 February 1945, the football club Metalac was founded, later its name was changed into BSK, and then into OFK Beograd, as successor to the tradition of the pre-war Beogradski Sport Klub (BSK). The Red Star Belgrade (FK Crvena Zvezda) was formed on 4 March 1945, and FK Partizan on 4 October of the same year. Some clubs were disbanded by the new socialist authorities, many on the ideological basis, for being considered too cosmopolitan and representative of the abolished monarchy, such as Jugoslavija or Jedinstvo Beograd, and some had simply disappeared due to man loss and long inactivity during the war. Some clubs were initially disbanded but shortly after, restored, the BASK case being the most evident, while a few top league clubs had continued their activity, as FK Vojvodina, RFK Novi Sad, FK Mačva Šabac and FK Radnički Kragujevac.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia[edit]

After the dissolution of the federation, and the separation of Montenegro, on 26 June 2006, the Football Association of Serbia was admitted to the membership of FIFA and UEFA, as legal successor to all the previous national associations whose part it was. By this the world and European federations have acknowledged the continuity of football in the territory of Serbia, and the decisive role of Serbia in creating the history of the game in Western Balkans since the end of 19th century. In recent years, many top Serbian players such as Dejan Stanković and Nemanja Vidić have gone on to forge successful careers in top European leagues. The U-21 team were runners-up at the 2007 UEFA Under-21 Championship having lost to the Netherlands in the final.


The governing body of football in Serbia is the Football Association of Serbia. It oversees the organization of:

Note: the aforementioned competitions are for men if not stated differently. Women's football exists but is much less developed or popular.


By far the two most popular clubs in the country are Crvena Zvezda and Partizan, both from Belgrade.

Player of the year[edit]

Serbian Footballer of the Year is an annual award given from Football Association of Serbia to the best player of the year.


  1. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pag. 3
  2. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pag. 3
  3. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pag. 4
  4. ^ "Srbislav Todorović: "Football in Serbia 1896 - 1918", pags. 32-34" (in Serbian). Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  5. ^ "Srbislav Todorović: "Football in Serbia 1896 - 1918", pag. 60" (in Serbian). Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  6. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pag. 6
  7. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pag. 18
  8. ^ Fudbal u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, Milorad Sijić, pags. 25 and 26

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