School of Life and Virtue
He hosted the last news in Serbian at Radio Priština, in June 1999, before another Serbian Great Expectation. God willing, he will also lead the next ones, when the day comes, when the hour strikes. In Belgrade, too, he is a respected radio journalist, editor, mostly in the sports column. UFor the National Review, he has been publishing interviews with people from sports for years. For this occasion, for the hundredth issue, he recalled many of those conversations with great champions, the circumstances in which they were conducted, as well as some memorable messages

By: Dejan Bulajić
Photo: NR Archives

Late summer days of can slow down, stretch out sluggishly and make us look behind and in the columns of memories, which the National Review is full of, look for some face or word that they left us as an old picture by which we will remember them.
Some distant summer, such words were given to us by the legendary Bora Stanković, whose nuances still seem alive in the contemporary basketball portrait. Slowed by tired legs in his home in Banovo brdo and memories that can hurt loneliness, he talked with a smile about how he, Šaper, Nebojša Popović and Aca Nikolić established the hoops that are still standing strong, he talked with melancholy about his wife, about the world which changes in the way we don’t want, and we ourselves contribute the most to it.
Years later, we were contacted by a man who continued in his footsteps and still has a strong authority in the International Olympic Committee. Nenad Lalović shares Bora’s view when he says for Review: ”The modern world has long been based on self-flattery and excessive self-confidence.” He does not hide his pride when he exclaims that Serbian sport is a miracle that cannot be explained by money or measured by logic, but that all our weaknesses can be summed up in one word – discipline!
A similar view was shared by Vlada Vujasinović, a rock of a water polo player, in his glorious playing days, who confirmed for the National Review that a man, if he has talent, must be persistent and must not give up: ”The main rule is that there is no hesitation!”
”Only such can reach the top” – as if adding his generational companion, Dejan Savić, crowned with glory as a player and as a coach, who after the Olympic gold in Rio assured us that ”the cult of the national team, based on strong personalities and real patriotism, brings the results we have, despite everything we don’t have.”
Members of the golden generation of Serbian men’s volleyball, led in a unique way by Nikola Grbić, once a superior technician, who has been a great coach for years, could also confirm this. Toward the end of his playing career, he spoke to the Review about his impressions: ”A lot depends on upbringing and mentality. Only someone who gives himself at the limit of the ultimate possibilities can move forward.” He added that he had seen top talents who ended up as average players in their arrogant self-confidence.
”And maybe a certain combination of circumstances”, adds in a quiet voice the calm eye and precise hand of the unsurpassed shooter Jasna Šekarić, who, after numerous successes, reminded us of her own combination of circumstances. Namely, no one wanted to join the school shooting team, not even her. Then one day they opened the register book from the back and read the names of those who had to accept that obligation. She was first on the list. Under this obligation, she won more than 90 medals in her career.


The famous basketball player Dejan Bodiroga was not forced to become a champion. He was born for that role. In the style of a classy warrior, wherever he was, he left a trail of victory and showed that he had a clear attitude about everything. At one time, he stated for the National Review that a certain provincialism, improvisation and inconsistency are not good companions for us, but he also added that what we have been exposed to in recent decades, few nations could handle better than us.
A similar sentiment, with a strong native charge, after his Greek period, in which he sat on the bench of ”Panathinaikos”, was expressed to us by the great basketball coach Željko Obradović, while he was flipping through the latest issue of the Review in a Belgrade garden: ”I like everything here – the city, the streets, the sun, people, meeting friends, what I eat and drink, the murmur of language. I’m eager for everything.”
His famous colleague Svetislav Pešić was also often eager for his hometown, who responded to us after he once again accepted the role of coach of the national team, with which he shone with silver at the World Championship this summer. In the moments of greatest celebration, the popular Kari knows how to be sharp in his admonitions: ”Victory can become an illusion, and defeat can be medicine.” And he adds that we have not yet understood what has changed in the core of the era, that we are still searching for ourselves and the important elements of our identity, its true measure. ”Optimism is not enough”, he says, ”decisions are important.”
The current world champion in the long jump, Ivana Španović Vuleta, was able to interpret the changes in time well, even at the time when she was climbing to the top. Then she confidently told us: ”We live in the time of false gods and their endless selfishness. Solidarity and concern for the common good have been declared the attributes of losers. There is nothing to say about people who are ashamed of what Tesla, Andrić or Olja Ivanjicki were proud of.”
The reference to such giants was heard by a young man who was born in Anaheim (USA), who graduated in economics from Berkeley and had all the conditions to gain fame in America as a swimming champion. Milorad Čavić told us about it, on the eve of the famous Olympics in London, about his childhood and why he decided to fight for the glory of the country of his ancestors, at a time when many in Serbia were giving up on it, aware of the risks the challenge poses.
An answer that could also be attributed to him was given by the excellent taekwondo player Milica Mandić, who, on the pages of the Review, while preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio, stated that belief is the first step on the path to achievement.
One of the world’s best water polo players ever, Filip Filipović, was able to tell us that he is grateful to the people who helped him understand what he should not become in life and that we lack awareness of the values of what we have.


It was a pleasure to listen to Dejan Stanković, then a football player of ”Inter” and now a successful coach. While waiting for the flight from Milan to Belgrade, he told us about the feeling of joy that comes over him when he sees the lights of Belgrade in the distance and how that brightness is incomparable to any other city in the world.
The great tennis expert Bogdan Obradović, after the triumph with the Serbian national team in the Davis Cup in Belgrade, also pointed out to us that we have something extraordinary, some powerful simplicity and adaptability, a higher idea, a different desire. But that none of this is a wild fruit that will survive on its own.
We remember that the legendary coach of the women’s volleyball team, Zoran Terzić, spoke to us while he was crossing the Carpathian Mountains by bus with his club in Romania on his way to the championship game. Then he told us that if we already emphasize and exaggerate our flaws too often, we must also be aware of our exceptional virtues.
Tennis ace Nenad Zimonjić was slowly making his way through Beijing by taxi, on his way to the hotel where he was staying, while he was talking to us. He had enough time, passing through the Far Eastern metropolis, to explain to us the course of his career and some of his beliefs. ”Our flaws,” he told us then, ”need to be discussed and corrected among ourselves, and everywhere else we must unconditionally stand behind our country.”
It was not difficult for the first European who became the head of the profession in an NBA team, Igor Kokoškov, to set aside time for the National Review, at the airport in Phoenix, on the way back from one of his team’s visits. When asked about our basketball, he was quite clear: ”We worked hard for a long time and improvised creatively. When you add to it certain genetic and character traits, that we are a people of large stature and a defiant nature, good conditions for progress are created.”
His colleague Marina Maljković, the coach of the women’s basketball team, admitted to us that she is happy that she knows her country and that people understand the essence of her team’s feat. Her father, Božidar, a trophy-winning basketball strategist, when he was elected as the first man of the Serbian Olympic Committee, left on the pages of the Review the conviction that, not only as athletes but also as a people, honesty and patience are our allies, but so is hard work, knowledge and visionary courage.
The captain of the national football team, Dušan Tadić, is aware that the condemnation of football players is deeply etched in the consciousness of our public. Although the feeling is not pleasant, he understood it and even sought a useful guide from it. After returning from England to the Netherlands, where he led the famous ”Ajax” for years, he admitted on the pages of the Review that the great expectations of the public should not be suppressed, but should be justified and use it to nourish one’s courage and strength. This is what, unfortunately, many Serbian footballers have not yet achieved.
The gentle words of the ardent fighter, karate player Jovana Preković, Olympic, world and European champion, made a touching impression on us, spoken for the Review after the Olympic gold: ”My whole people are my silent but strong comrades-in-arms. I share every step towards the podium with them. It is an achievement not to let your loved ones down.”
And so, step by step, down the issues and pages of the Review... there are many who we could not mention, but they will not hold that against us. All of them painted the ”Beautiful Face of Serbia” in an incomparable way, and we are grateful to them for that. In these slow summer days, when the number 100 makes us look back.


The last oasis of the warrior spirit
”Several times every year, events force us to ask ourselves: where do so many top Serbian successes in sports come from? How do we conquer the world with such certainty and confidence in sports – we, small, exhausted, robbed, slandered, dismembered, flattened, displaced, we, reformed wizards of survival, honored with a dollar a day and a sly pat on the back? Is it a lucky exception that confirms the cheerless rule, or is it precisely in sports that the deeper layers of our national being, preserved beneath the surface damages, are expressed? Where does that calm and firm look, that winning smile, that self-awareness about the value of the sons of those who, in the vast majority, do not know what they will live on until the end of this month, come from in sports? What kind of vague memory of height do we have, where does that unusual image come from that we carry in ourselves and manifest through sports?” asked Branislav Matić, editor of the ”National Review” in 2012, in the author’s text ”Serbian Sports Miracle”. And he recalls that the great Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset considered that ”sport is the last oasis of the warrior spirit in the modern age.” The oasis preserved despite everything.


Athletes on the front page
Athletes have graced the front page of the ”National Review” seven times so far. In number 2, from 2007, we see the victory dance of the very young Ana Ivanovic and Novak Đoković. In issue 21, from 2010, Jasna Šekarić is on the cover. Already in number 22, from the same year, there is Novak Đoković again, this time with children from all Serbian countries and diaspora who gathered in the camp on Tara. In issue 30, two years later, the cover features the wreath of the Serbian champion water polo players. In 2014, athletes were on the cover twice: in number 47, the world’s best water polo player Filip Filipović and his victory cry, and in the issue for the Republic of Srpska (numbers 8-9) ”Igokea” basketball player Nemanja Gordić. In the summer of 2021, in anticipation of the previously postponed Olympics in Tokyo, the cover features the golden taekwondo player Tijana Bogdanović (number 86).


Infected with victory
”It would be too simplistic to say that the reason why Serbs have so much success in sports, while other countries spend millions for a minor achievement, lies in the fact that the Serbs are better and braver, or that they come from a country that was destroyed, and is now being reassembled. However, those moments have great significance”, writes the London ”Times” (”National Review”, 2007)


The secret is in people
”Is there a well-designed and hidden system behind this incredible Serbian success in sports?” a CNN editor asked Đoković.
”The system does not exist, it is yet to be built”, answered Novak with a smile. ”There are only people. The secret is in the people.” (”National Review”, 2007)

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