Yugoslav and Serbian soccer star Siniša Mihajlović dies aged 53

Siniša Mihajlović handed on Friday after a protracted battle with leukaemia, based on the household of the celebrated Yugoslav and Serbian participant and supervisor. He was 53.

In a press release, the household mentioned they have been pained to announce the “unjust, untimely loss of life” of an “exemplary husband, father, son and brother”.

Born in Vukovar to a Croat mom and a Serb father, Miha or just Siniša — as he was recognized to his followers — was a soccer wunderkind who earned himself a spot on the Yugoslav nationwide workforce and a switch to the nation’s giants, Pink Star Belgrade, by the age of 21.

The one-million-Deutschmark (€500,000) switch in 1990 for the teen with lengthy chestnut brown hair and a strong left foot made him the costliest footballer within the nation on the time.

That season, Pink Star gained the Champions League, with Mihajlović taking part in a key position — first towards Bayern Munich within the semifinal, the place his freekick secured the Belgrade outfit a spot within the finals, after which serving to his workforce attain the very prime of European soccer within the recreation towards Olympic Marseille.

However the good occasions didn’t final too lengthy.

Yugoslavia was already disintegrating in a collection of wars that pitted the nation’s ethnic teams and not too long ago unbiased states towards one another. 

His hometown of Vukovar noticed among the worst combating originally of the warfare in an assault by the remnants of the Yugoslav Individuals’s Military in August of 1991. The native Croats — who fought for his or her independence — and pro-Belgrade ethnic Serb forces razed town to the bottom.

The northern Croatian metropolis has since turn out to be symbolic of the warfare crimes and ethnic cleaning performed by troops backed by the Serbian hardline chief Slobodan Milošević in varied components of the previous federal state between 1991 and 1999.

Because the siege of Vukovar unfolded, Mihajlović moved to Italy, having been acquired by Roma earlier that summer season.

Enjoying as a defender and midfielder, the freekick specialist earned himself a devoted cult following wherever he utilized his commerce — shifting from Roma to Sampdoria after which on to Lazio and Inter. 

In Sampdoria, he turned the darling of coach Sven Goran Eriksson, who deployed him on the centre of his defence. However it was solely in Lazio, the place he performed from 1998 to 2004, that he rose to the very prime, profitable the league title in addition to the Italian Cup and Supercup, amongst different trophies.

His 20 targets within the biancoceleste jersey have been highlighted with a one-of-a-kind hattrick from freekicks towards his former workforce, Sampdoria.

Enjoying for 3 nationwide groups with out switching allegiances — the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, the rump Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Serbia and Montenegro — Mihajlović accrued 63 appearances and scored 10 targets.

After his retirement, he switched to soccer administration, teaching the likes of Inter, Fiorentina, Sporting Lisabon and the Serbian nationwide workforce till his second and closing stint with Bologna in January 2019. 

A life and profession bookended by two completely different friendships

Though he principally stayed out of politics, Mihajlović turned recognized for his friendship with Željko Ražnatović, a Pink Star ultras leader-turned-warlord and legal underworld boss concerned in a collection of warfare crimes and in ethnic cleaning from Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo.

Mihajlović was additionally vocally towards the NATO intervention in Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, meant to cease the bloody crackdown by Belgrade troops towards Albanians in Kosovo, which resulted in ethnic cleaning and multiple million refugees, who have been pressured to go away the previous Serbian province.

He gained the Scudetto — the Italian championship — with Lazio that yr.

In his biography, Mihajlović defined that he didn’t wish to deny he was associates with Ražnatović — who he claimed he knew from his Pink Star days — as a result of it could have been “hypocritical” to say in any other case. 

In the meantime, he struck a friendship with one other soccer world mainstay with Balkan roots, the Bosnian-Swedish celebrity Zlatan Ibrahimović. 

The duo appeared collectively on the San Remo music competition, and Ibrahimović acknowledged “he would go to warfare” along with Mihajlović attributable to their closeness.

Simply days after Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Mihajlović, nonetheless on the helm of Bologna, held an emotional press convention condemning the warfare.

“I’m certain that warfare can not and should not be the one means of fixing issues,” he mentioned.

It was Mihajlović who broke the information of his leukaemia prognosis in July 2019.

“I by no means play to lose, in soccer in addition to in life. I’ll defeat evil,” Mihajlović mentioned, “and I’ll do it for my spouse, for my household, for many who love me.”

Mihajlović’s grit in battling leukaemia additional endeared him to the Bologna trustworthy, who famously got here to cheer for him beneath the home windows of his hospital. Upon studying of his prognosis, Bologna and Lazio followers even organised a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of San Luca to wish collectively for his restoration.

Mihajlović was, nevertheless, sacked in September after his workforce accrued simply three factors from the primary 5 matches of the 2022/2023 Serie A season.

“This time the style (of me leaving) makes me sadder,” Mihajlović wrote in a press release after his firing, thanking his “brothers and fellow residents” for “three and a half years of soccer, of life, of tears, of pleasure and of ache.”

He’s survived by his partner Arianna Rapaccioni and their six kids.

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