Fervour & Vitriol

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Red Star Belgrade 0 v  0 Partizan Belgrade (25.04.2015)

If there was a footballing equivalent to the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ then the Eternal Derby in Belgrade would surely feature prominently on any such list. There a few rivalries in world football that are as intense and visually dramatic as the Eternal Derby. It’s a fixture that’s reputation precedes it, and one that most football fans across the globe will offer an opinion on, but its one that few will have actually ventured to the Serbian capital to see and experience first-hand.

Whilst Serbian football may lack the razzmatazz of other higher profile leagues, in terms of sheer fanaticism, extreme atmosphere and visual wonderment the Eternal Derby is an array of sights and sounds to behold.

The aesthetic and vocal grandeur that fills the north and south stands of both clubs respective stadiums on derby day, is thanks in no small part to the fanatical support of the Delije and Grobari. The Delije (or Heroes) are the ultras group of Red Star who occupy the north stands. The Grobari (or Gravediggers) are Partizan’s ultras who occupy the south stands. Well-choreographed tifo’s, banners, pyrotechnics, smoke, firecrackers and stun grenades are all par for the Eternal Derby course, and if you visit this crème de la crème of derby’s you will spend as much time watching these ultras in action as you will the players on the field.

Expect the unexpected. What unfolds on derby day in Belgrade is something quite unique, and there can’t be many games in world football that have the ability to cast a spell on you like this one does. You can sense the excitement and fervour in the build-up to the game; and the reputation of both sets of ultras plays its part in that for sure. But throw in an undercurrent of hatred and vitriol, and combine it with the anticipation and building adrenalin and you will be left feeling slightly on edge!

At its most average the eternal derby is an experience that you will never forget. At its best it will give you goosebumps and leave you with your jaw on the floor! In England we are well versed to the dangers and implications of using pyrotechnics inside football grounds. But in Serbia its standard fayre. Flares at the Marakana are as common as the free plastic flags given to Chelsea fans to wave on a Champions League night at the Bridge! But whatever your thoughts are on the use of pyro at football there is no denying that it creates something quite spectacular. There is something quite mesmerising and awe inspiring as flares flicker into life, smoke engulfs the stadium, and the thousands of ultras bounce and chant in unison exuberating sheer passion for their team. As a player you dare have an off day in front of these fans!

Sometimes words just don’t do it justice (or at least mine don’t!), so I hope the photos below tell their own story and inspire you to visit the Eternal Derby one day!

By the way, if there was a football equivalent to the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ who would make your list? I would have to add Aris v PAOK to the shortlist, but I would be interested to hear your suggestions. So if you feel obliged please place yours in the comments section below!

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The Delije preparing the derby tifo 9 hours before kick off…

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The Delije warming up in the North stand…

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10,000 Grobari congregate at the south end…

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Trouble starts in the east stand with Partizan fans in the Red Star section…

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The Delije surge towards the east section…

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A riot breaks out in the north stand 5 mins before kick off…

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Riot Police move in to clear a section of the North stand (above and below)…

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The aftermath of the riot…hundreds of seats torn up and piled up in front of the Police at the top of the stand…

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The Grobari patiently wait for the rioting to subside….

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The Delije regroup after the riot to prepare the first phase of the derby tifo…

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Red Star Smoke

Smoke-tastic scenes!…

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The ritual burning of Partizan flags, scarves and shirts…

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More burning Partizan paraphernalia!….

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The Delije in full voice…

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The Grobari pyro show…

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Partizan Pyro

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Pano Smoke

Pano Flares

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Pano Stadium

Pano of the Marakana…

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