My name is Vanja Avejić (20 years old) and my dad’s name is Raško Avejić (56 years old). We live in Ontario, Canada. I was born here while my dad immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia in 1987. Although our home is in Canada, our heart is in Ivanjica, Serbia where my dad was born. Our yearly trips back to Serbia always include a visit to the famous Marakana Stadion (now called Stadion Rajko Mitić). Whether it is watching a game, visiting practice, going to pre-season training, or buying from the Delije Shop, Red Star Belgrade has become a second religion to us. Even though there are moments that stand out, all together they equally contribute to our love and passion for a club that has become part of our life. Keeping a family tradition can be hard living 7000km away from the country that holds the club you love most, but if love is fate than it’s fate we’ll keep finding a way to make this distance work.
Why collect Red Star shirts?
We both strongly feel that Red Star Belgrade is an important club in all of Europe. This is because Red Star is the only Eastern European football club to win the European Cup (now called Champion’s League) in 1991 alongside Steaua Bucharest who won in 1986, and since then no other Eastern European football club has even come close to this. The victory was in some sense short-lived, as soon after began the division of Yugoslavia which caused sanctions, and made clubs from this region inadmissible for competition. I strongly believe that if it was not for the affects of war, there would have been many more glory days like May 29th, 1991, for Red Star. However, for an Eastern European nation to win a competition of that scale, is something you don’t forget. Another reason why Red Star Belgrade is unique is because of the fans and passion. This immense amount of passion led to the creation of die hard fans. Delije is an umbrella name referring to the supporters of various sports clubs that compete under the Red Star Belgrade Sports Society banner. When coming to the Marakana, you won’t be wowed by luxurious amenities but once the game starts none of that matters. Something about the raw passion and the amount of history that is within the Marakana make all the negativity disappear. I have seen critics call us barbaric, animalistic, and unhuman, and what I say to that is, you just haven’t seen passion. Loving a sports club is an escape from daily life for the average European, it is something to look forward to. Every bit of choreography, every song, every banner has a meaning and speaks louder than words ever could. Not one game passes that a song related to bringing back glory days isn’t sung. I believe I speak on behalf of every person who couldn’t experience the glory days that we pray everyday that they’ll come back soon. Just like my dad told me stories, I want to be able to carry the tradition and tell my children one day about the glory days that I experienced.
How many shirts do you have in your collection?
We have 64 jerseys, some of which are match-worn. Alongside this we have a long list of t-shirts, training kits, tracksuits, stationary, backpacks, and sweaters.
What was your first shirt and when did you buy it?
For myself, Vanja, my first shirt was bought for me in 2000. It was the Kappa jersey worn in 2000/2001 season and to this day it is one of my favourites as it began the start of a new generation of love for Red Star. Before I even knew what Red Star was, it was almost destined for me to fall in love since I was already used to singing songs, wearing clothing, and watching games through the dramatic reactions of my dad. For my dad, Raško, his first shirt was a Puma jersey from the 70’s. Growing up in the former Yugoslavia did not provide many of the luxuries we take for granted today in Western countries. This jersey has far more sentimental value that could ever be described since buying it was a hard-worked process. Seeing the process of our collection growing bigger and bigger is spectacular but remembering our first jersey’s is always a good reminder of where we started.
Which is your favourite shirt?
For myself, Vanja, my favourite shirt is the white and red Puma jersey worn in the 2015/2016 season. The one I have specifically, I bought in October of 2016 on the day I went to watch Red Star’s training. Prior to this, I informed Red Star via Twitter that my dad and I would be in Belgrade and that we would love to somehow meet and take pictures with some of the players. When we arrived, they allowed us in to watch their training and after training each of the players gladly stopped, talked, took pictures and signed the white jersey that we had bought that morning. This jersey will always stand out to me as it was the first Red Star Belgrade jersey that I had signed. For my dad, Raško, his favourite jersey is the Hummel Classic worn in 1991/1992 season. This jersey also happens to be our rarest shirt that we have. This is our rarest jersey because they only wore it for a select amount of seasons and won Toyota Cup in Japan (World Club Title) against Colo-Colo.
What is the shirt you would like most in your collection but don’t have yet?
There are two specific shirts we would love to be a part of our collection. The Puma jersey worn in the 2016/2017 season was never on sale in the Red Star shop. We’ve attempted to contact some players for the chance that they could send us any jersey from this season but so far it hasn’t worked out. The other jersey that we would love to be in our collection is 1991 Red Star Belgrade Match Issue Intercontinental Cup Home Shirt worn by Radinović that is on your website. Maybe one day, by chance, if we win the lottery or find £999.99 laying around, this would be our first investment.
Follow Vanja’s Red Star blog here