Mitić as Yugoslavia head coach in October 1970
|Date of birth||19 November 1922|
|Place of birth||Dol, Kingdom of SCS|
|Date of death||29 March 2008(aged 85)|
|Place of death||Belgrade, Serbia|
|1945–1958||Red Star Belgrade||572||(262)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Mitić is considered one of the most important players in the history of Red Star Belgrade as he is the first out of only five players to have been awarded the Zvezdina zvezda. In December 2014, Red Star Stadium, the principal stadium in Belgrade, was officially renamed after him.
Košutnjak and BSK
Before becoming the first successful player of Red Star Belgrade, Mitić started his career in 1937 on the football fields of Košutnjak. In May 1938, he was transferred to BSK Belgrade where he played from 1938–1944. For BSK, he became a member of the junior team of the then-champion. Two years later, in 1940, he had his debut as a striker for the first team, where he scored two goals.
The Second World War halted his football development, but he continued playing in 1944 for the engineer squadron under which he fought along with fellow future Yugoslav national team players Predrag Đajić and Jovan Jezerkić.
Red Star Belgrade
Short after Red Star Belgrade was founded on 4 March 1945, Mitić became the captain of the team, and wore the red and white uniform for fourteen seasons. In Red Star's uniform, he scored 262 goals in 572 matches in total. His popularity in the early fifties surpassed Belgrade and reached out to other cities and towns as well.
As captain and leader of the team, he won five league titles (1951, 1953, 1956, 1957, and 1959) and four national cup titles (1948, 1949, 1950, and 1958). One of his fondest memories was the first championship title, won in a dramatic finish, when the first place Dinamo Zagreb lost their lead by slipping in the last three rounds. This allowed Red Star to win by a better goal ratio of 0.018 goals. He almost never missed a match, except in 1947, when he had to go to rehabilitation after a knee meniscus operation.
As a captain, he most frequently remembered two of his decisions that had divided the football public. First, when he sent his best friend Branko Stanković to the dressing room because of inappropriate conduct. The second came on 7 April 1957 against Hajduk in Split, when he pulled the entire team off the pitch after a stone thrown from a disgruntled Red Star fan in the stands hit Bora Kostić in the head.
In the 71st minute of the aforementioned match, the result was 1–1. The disciplinary committee of the Football Association of Yugoslavia suspended all the players of Red Star (except Vladimir Beara and Kostić) for a month. The club did not appeal against the decision, and Rajko Mitić made the most positive impression possible on the shocked football public.
As a big opponent of unfair play, he never pulled his opponent by the shirt, or tripped his opponents on purpose. There were plenty of better players in his time when it came to attractiveness and skill, but Rajko Mitić was unique because of his extraordinary people skills and sportsmanship.
For Yugoslavia, Mitić won 59 caps (in which he was captain 34 times), and scored 32 goals. He scored his first goal for the national team in his debut on 9 May 1946 in Prague, when Yugoslavia outplayed Czechoslovakia 2–0. In his national team career, he scored three hat-tricks. The first against Denmark in 1950 (the final score being 5–1), the second against India in 1952 (10–1), and finally in Belgrade against Wales (5–2) in 1953.
He often said that he never missed a chance to remind himself of his favourite goal in the national team uniform, against England in Belgrade, in 1954. Yugoslavia won 1–0 as Mitić scored the decisive goal in the dying minutes of the match.
He took part in two Olympic tournaments: London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 where he captained the Yugoslavia squad that included many notable players of that era. He earned the silver medal both times. There were two dramatic matches against the Soviet Union (in the second of which Mitić scored the first goal, and paved the way for an important 3–1 win). He also took part in two World Cups (Brazil 1950 and Switzerland 1954), but none of these were pleasant. Before the match against Brazil at the Maracanã in Rio, while he was entering the pitch from the underground tunnel, he lifted his head suddenly and hit a medal lid. Due to the large cut and bleeding, he was forced to ask for medical attention and couldn't play the first 20 minutes of the match, so he didn't see Ademir's goal in the 3rd minute and wasn't aware of Brazil's lead until he was informed of it by his teammates during halftime. Since, in those days, there were no substitutions, the team was handicapped and finally lost the match 2–0.
He celebrated his 50th match with the national team during the 1954 World Cup against West Germany (who went on to become World Champion), but lost 2–0. He played his last match for the national team on 29 November 1957, in Bucharest against Romania, as a 35-year-old striker. The final score of the match was 1–1.
Post-playing career, death and legacy
He was part of the coaching staff at Red Star from 1960 until 1966 when he became a member of the national team selection committee which consisted of Mitić and Aleksandar Tirnanić, Miljan Miljanić, Vujadin Boškov and Branko Stanković. In 1967, he was promoted to head coach of the national team and he remained in that role until 1970. His biggest achievement as a coach was at the 1968 UEFA European Football Championship held in Italy, when the national team (led by Dragan Džajić) won the silver medal.
When he retired in 1983, he applied himself actively as a volunteer in Red Star. He was a member of the team's leadership for a long time (including two mandates as vice president of the club).
Even as an active player in the early fifties, he was a sportswriter for the daily newspaper Sport. Later on, for a long series of years until his retirement, he wrote for the weekly sports magazine Tempo.
Until his death, he was active in the Council of Veterans together with the stars from his and later generations. Mitić is considered one of the most important players in the history of Red Star as he is the first out of only five players to have been awarded the Zvezdina zvezda. In December 2014, Red Star Stadium, the principal stadium in Belgrade, was officially renamed after him.
|1946–47||Red Star Belgrade||Prva Liga||9||4||-||-||?||?|
- B92 (2008-03-30). "Preminuo Rajko Mitić" (in Serbian). Retrieved 2019-08-01.
- Prvoslav Vujčić, Urban Book Circle (2006-05-01). "Get out of here, I am Šekularac". Retrieved 2013-10-28.
- Blic (2008-04-02). "Sahranjen Rajko Mitić" (in Serbian). Retrieved 2019-08-01.
- B92 (2014-12-21). "Stadion Zvezde – Rajko Mitić" (in Serbian). Retrieved 2019-08-01.
- "Rajko Mitić". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
- Reprezentacija.rs profile (in Serbian)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rajko Mitić.|