Kaizer Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic has rolled back the hands of time to the fierce Belgrade Derby in his homeland Serbia.Vermezovic, who is preparing for his first official Soweto Derby on Saturday, recalls his time as coach at Partizan Belgrade when they clashed with cross-town Red Star Belgrade.
Vermezovic has already played Orlando Pirates twice this season in the four months that he has been in the country, in the Vodacom Challenge and then the Telkom Charity Cup. But Super Saturday presents the real deal for him, knowing that the AmaKhosi faithful want nothing less than victory over their arch-rivals.
The Soweto Derby returns to its roots at Orlando Stadium after an absence of more than two decades, and Veremezovic spiced up the preview of this match by recalling the importance of the Belgrade Derby between Partizan and Red Star.
“In my country the magnitude of the derby is the same as here. In Serbia, it tends to be more important to the fans to win the derby rather than the league title because of the intensity. So the derby atmosphere is something that I understand,” said Vermezovic, according to Kickoff.com.
Though Chiefs picked up a morale boosting victory with the win over Golden Arrows in mid-week that gives Chiefs a psychological edge, Vermezovic says he can only do so much on the day.
“I don’t think players need any special psychological preparation for the derby," he said. "Sometimes players cannot do on the field what the coach tells them before the game because the stadium is full and the atmosphere different. Yet sometimes players give more than 100 per cent in that game because of the very same atmosphere. There is not so much of a tactical input from the coach about that game.
“But I think the victory [against Arrows] gave us the psychological edge that we need ahead of the derby,” Vermezovic stated.
Vermezovic explained that in Serbia Partizan have less support than Red Star, but on Saturday, Chiefs are likely to have more support in the stands than Pirates.
Research shows that some countries with a history of soccer hooliganism have made strides in recent years to cut down on the amount of fan violence associated with games, but in Belgrade, hooliganism still thrives - especially in Red Star-Partizan clash that is known as the Eternal Derby.
Fan association with Partizan and Crvena Zvezda stretches beyond the Belgrade city limits, as support for these two clubs exists throughout Serbia.
Not only that, allegiance to one club or another isn’t limited to soccer - each organisation also has a basketball and a handball team, and those derbies are just as tense.