Sunday afternoon in Vranje, 370km from Belgrade. Sunday is the ideal day for a friendly rugby league match between local rugby league clubs Soko Vranje and Rugby League Club Red Star from Belgrade. City Stadium, muddy, ruined after the football game the day before between premiership club Dinamo and locals FC Ropotova.
’’It's good, warm...warm-up time will be shorter,“ said one of the Red Star coaches. ’’If it's snow, a foot deep, like in Belgrade, it would be much longer.’’ Not summr rugby then, but not winter either.
Rugby League Club Soko players warmed up for half an hour, under the direction of their coaches and players, Dejan Skaric Skareta, or ’’Popa’’. Dejan is not your average rugby league coach: he doubles up as the local Orthodox priest.
“We are pleased that young people who play rugby league have found the right sport for them. Rugby league is a sport that develops camaraderie and friendship and creates chivalrous and noble qualities. We are all friends, we hear it each day. We train four days in the gym, and on Saturdays and Sundays with the ball,” said Skaric.
The teams are separate, gathered around the middle of the field. Head down, embraced. From the Belgrade team rose up the cry:
"Red Starrr..." which startled the inhabitants of Donja and Gornja Sapranca from their slumber.
Next, the turn of Rugby League Club Soko players: "No retreat - no surrender!"
Then, Father Dejan Skaric gathered his charges and they all began uttering the incantation, "Our Father..."
Not your average rugby league game.
RUGBY LEAGUE CLUB SOKO – RUGBY LEAGUE CLUB RED STAR 18:26 (14: 16)
City Stadium, Attendance: 100 Referee: Vladan Kitanovic (Belgrade) Results: Saponja 0-4 in 9, Djordjevic 0:8 at 21, Saponja 12:10 in 21, Stojmenovic 4:10 in 25, Stankovic 6:10 in 25, Zlatanovic 10:10 in 29, Filip Stosic 14:10 in 35, Djordjevic 14:14 in 37, Saponja 14:16 in 37, Krtolica 14:20 in 47, Saponja 14:22 in 47, Zlatanovic 18:22 at 65, 18:26 Pesic at 71 minute.
Vranje: V. Milosevic, B. Stosic, F. Stosic, Skaric, Jeftic, Nikolic, Zlatanovic, D. Nikolic, V. Stankovic, D. Stojanovic, Andjelkovic, M. Stojanovic, Jovanovic, Stojmenovic, Davitkovic, Milenkovic, M. Milosevic, S. Stankovic.
Red Star: Saponja, Milanovic, Ratkovic, BiltiÄ‡, Radojevic, Poulain, Dodic, Krtolica, Pesic, NovitoviÄ‡, Ivan Djordjevic, I. Djordjevic, Calic, Bajic, Dedic.