Dusan told me that the game had been sold out, and asked me to show up at 6:30, so that I could get inside with a group of about twenty journalists and club members from Belgrade. I did so and brought along my son, aged ten. We found seats on the eastern side, near the security staff box. We were surrounded by about ten members of the Partizan management and friends of Partizan. I did not know anyone of them. We entered the sports center through a back door, straight from the bus. The security staff thoroughly searched all of us and we were told we had to leave even cigarette lighters outside. After passing the control we went upstairs. From the top of the staircase, we were filmed by a camera. We were told that that was a Police camera.
The moment first Partizan players stepped on the court, 30 minutes before the start of the game, that part of the audience exploded with insults. A lot of objects were thrown on the court, mostly from the southern side. Some of the objects exploded, others did not. From all sides it erupted: "Kill the Serbs", "Hang the Serbs". Soon the insults took on an artistic form, inasmuch as the southern side would howl "Kill!", while the north would add "Serbs!". Or the south would scream "Hang!", and the north finish by screaming "Serbs!". Parts of the west and east side frequently joined the chorus. The whole setup was eerie and scary and, I must say, unbelievable. The loudness of these horrific chants was close to the limit bearable by a human ear. It went on, without a break, for the whole game. Insults would be chanted for about a minute, and then repeated. I counted 25 repetitions, and then gave up. I think that they were repeated more than a hundred times.
Besides the insults, the audience engaged in singing of Ustashe [Croat pro-fascist movement from WWII, collaborated with Nazis] songs "Here is dawn, here is day", and "Call, just call!", and screamed "Vukovar, Vukovar" and "If you don't join us, don't join us, you must be a Serb!". That was roughly their whole repertoire in the verbal part of the show. I noticed only one or two sport chants, such as "Go Cibona, go!", or somewhat more frequently "Dinamo, Dinamo" or "Dinamo" from the southern end, and "Zagreb" from the north. On three occasions, I believe, before the game and during the break between the two halves, the Dinamo club song could be heard. A song insulting to Partizan was sang several times.
The MC in the arena on several occasions asked the fans to stop throwing objects on the court and warned that the game would be stopped otherwise. Two Cibona players took a wireless microphone and from the court begged the fans to stop throwing stuff at the players. Neither the MC nor the players said anything about the "supportive messages" and placards in the audience, nor did anyone ask the fans to stop insults or remove the insulting signs. Before the game a former Yugoslav flag was burned on the southern end. That prompted a delirium in the audience. I saw, everywhere in the arena, visitors getting up, turning towards the spot where the flag was on fire, and lifting their right arm in the Nazi salute. For several times, I checked out the facial expressions of the people from Belgrade. They were humiliated and stunned. I was ashamed of being there.
Once upon the time basketball had more civilized audience than other sports. I accepted the invitation of my friend Vujosevic hoping that that was still at least partly true.
I talked with him before the game. He was pleased that it was again possible to play games between Belgrade and Zagreb teams. I have known for a while, very well, Vujosevic's sincere scorn of nationalism and his sincere love for the Zagreb teams. Last night I learned that times of civilized basketball audience in Zagreb are behind us, and I will not go to basketball games anymore. Three or four persons from the small Partizan contingent clapped on their seats when their team scored, and although it was obvious that they were sincere, it was also obvious that they were expressing some strange spiteful courage that was definitely out of place in the Cibona sports arena last night. While I sat there, I did not see anyone insulting and attacking them, but I fear that they got in trouble after the end of the game.
I left the arena a minute before the end of the game, to spare my child an unpleasant experience, so I don't know how unfortunate guests from Belgrade ended up [some were beaten after the game].
The events from the arena caught up with my son and me after our departure. As we were unable to find a cab, we took a tram, and then a bus home. Groups of out of control and hoarse young men who had just left the arena, continued their howling and kept singing everything they repeated hundreds of times in the arena on public transportation. That was even more eerie, because it was removed from any sporting context. If I did not know where they had come from, I would have been convinced that they had either escaped from the front line or from some Serb torture camp or prison. On the bus, I heard them singing something I hadn't heard during the game: "I am an Ustasha, my father a communist, I'll slaughter him, I swear!" That sad gang consisted of boys aged between 15 and 20. Given that they could not have been significantly affected by the war, their obvious hatred and chauvinism leaves one speechless.
If in Europe it is punishable to even chant "booo!" at a dark skinned player, it is outrageous that thousands of sports fans of a basketball team can in a European competition without punishment incessantly hurl most primitive and disgusting insults during the whole game at players of the visiting team, using ethnic and racial slurs, non-stop throwing hot and cold objects at them, and endangering their sportsmen and human dignity and lives. I was at the game and saw that the players and team members from Belgrade did not in any, absolutely any manner provoke anything or anyone in that arena. It is incomprehensible how hundreds and hundreds of explosive devices could have been taken into the arena given the search to which my child and I were subjected to. Or, is it that the security only searched the two of us and the few guests from Belgrade and concluded, if we did not have anything dangerous on us, then definitely there was no need to search anyone else?