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Their is little love lost between Red Star and Partizan – particularly when they are neck and neck for the title

The animosity between bitter Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan, which is bad enough at the best of times, stepped up a notch as they both set their sights on this season’s championship.

Partizan president Dragan Djuric got the ball rolling by claiming referees work in favour of Red Star and that his club’s administrative board would be issuing an announcement regarding refereeing at Red Star’s league games. Apparently Partizan – who at the time were the only team to have beaten Red Star in the league this season – viewed with suspicion a series of victories for their rivals despite below-par performances, and the fact that Red Star had had five penalties, with none against them, while Partizan had been awarded just one. Among Partizan fans there were rumours of fixed games and bribed officials.

Naturally, Red Star chairman Vladan Lukic didn’t hesitate to react and launched his own attack on Partizan, saying: “When someone has a team which is three time more expensive, but is trailing in the table, such an excuse is welcome.

“As Djuric is making false accusations towards others, he should remember his own trick, which is an open secret, how last spring, after Partizan had already secured the title, they lost easily at home against Jagodina and so enabled them to stay in the top flight. And is it true that no single bets were accepted for that game?”

Super Liga officials reacted quickly by announcing an investigation against Lukic and Djuric, with competition commissionaire Branislav Delic claiming: “Both will have to prove the accusations they put forward against each other. Otherwise they will face a severe punishment.”

But, two weeks later, Lukic and Djuric were just fined and told that if they should repeat such verbal misdemeanours they would be suspended.

That, however, was far from the end of hostilities. Just as it looked as though the situation was calming down, Lukic got involved in a row with Serbia FA president Tomislav Karadzic.

Former Partizan president Karadzic issued a public statement in which he confirmed that, on March 6, he had received a phone call from Lukic, in which the Red Star chairman attacked him with a series of insults and threats, using vulgar vocabulary and curses. Lukic confirmed that he called Karadzic, and admitted that the conversation was emotional, but he denied using vulgar expressions or swearing. He claimed the call was about a quote from Karadzic regarding the sale and new owner of Red Star.

“I told him to keep his fingers out of Red Star and that our club is not for sale,” explained Lukic. “Karadzic told me that I would regret my call and that neither I, nor Red Star’s board, will have a say concerning the sale of the club, and that he knew who the buyer was.

“I am Red Star president and it’s my job to protect the club and I will do this always, no matter whether Tomislav Karadzic, or someone else attacks it.

“With his behaviour towards our club, Karadzic showed that, for him, each competition in which Red Star is first is irregular. That’s the main problem between Karadzic and Red Star. For us this season is regular, while for him probably the last two seasons, when his club won the double, were regular.

“So, my public question for him is whether Red Star are allowed to be first and win the league title?”

For Red Star, the activities of their chairman off the field seem to have done little to help the players on it and they lost their second game of the season – 2-1 away to promoted Metalac – in March. Despite still being top of the table and two points clear of Partizan, Red Star coach Vladimir Petrovic was sacked and replaced by youth-team boss Ratko Dostanic.

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