The year is 1965. In post-war Yugoslavia, the myth of the “big four” still lives on. Red Star, Partizan, Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split are taking turns on the championship podium of the then First Federal League of Yugoslavia. During the previous 19 years, not a single team appeared that managed to break the dominance of the “big four”, and then a wonderful generation appeared. In the 1965/66 season, Vojvodina won the championship title ahead of second-placed Dinamo and third-placed Velež.
On the occasion of marking the 55th anniversary of winning the first championship title, about the famous 1965/66 season, so far, the best scorer of the team, Silvester Takač and Dr. Radivoj Mika Radosav have spoken, and now Vladimir Savić has shared his memories with the Vojvodina fans.
He was born on November 7, 1943 in Mačvanska Mitrovica, and before coming to Vojvodina, he built his career in FK Podrinje from Mačvanska Mitrovica, Srem from Sremska Mitrovica, Mačva from Šabac, and then from 1965 to 1973 he wrote history in a jersey of the Old Lady. After Vojvodina, he played two more seasons for German Mannheim, and then another season for Crvenka, before retiring in 1976.
As Vladimir Savić says today, coming to a “metropolis like Novi Sad”, for him, as a 22-year-old before the historical season, was a dream coming true.
– Coming to a big city like Novi Sad and to a club like Vojvodina, for those of us who came from the province, simply cannot be forgotten. I came from my place, Mačvanska Mitrovica, to such a city and such a club, and it was an invaluable experience for me. At that time, it was a huge step, both in the life and career of a young football player – Vladimir Savić started the story, mentioning that he played 181 games for Voša from 1965 until 1973 and scored 12 goals.
In your opinion, what made that team so special?
– I believe that it was mutual respect for all of us within the team and the club, starting with the director Vujadin Boškov, who gathered us, through coach Stanković, who clearly outlined the tasks for each of us from the first day, all the way to us players. I came to a club where at that time there were greats like Ilija Pantelić, Brzić, Takač and I didn’t have much choice, but to recognize my place on the pitch and in the locker room and to fulfill my tasks. Everyone had such an attitude and that is why we were such a team.
You joined Vojvodina before the start of the season in which the first championship title was won. With what ambitions did you come to Vojvodina and how did your teammates accept you?
– Apart from those players that I listed, several of us younger ones were the same generation – Trivić, Radosav, Pušibrk and I, and we somehow stuck together. It was such a time, but far from being disrespected by the elders. There was simply a hierarchy. We were all very close, from the first day I came, and I felt like I belonged there.
Despite the fact that you were a newcomer to the team, already in your first season, in which you won the title, you played 29 games for Vojvodina and scored five goals. How did you manage to impose yourself so quickly and get up in the starting lineup?
– Considering the quality of the backbone of the team that I mentioned – Pantelić, Nikolić, Takač, Brzić, my approach to the game and attitude towards work had to be at the highest level. With my work and commitment, as well as obedience on the pitch and in the locker room, I deserved the status I had. Nothing could disturb me and change my desire to succeed. I used the first chance and a combination of circumstances, the position in which I played really suited me. The results of the whole team also helped me, so we all just looked forward and we seemed better to each other.
How did you get used to working with coach Branko Stanković and what impression did the then technical director Vujadin Boškov leave on you?
– Brane had demanding trainings, he was an authority and he had the right discipline. We all wanted to fit in and each of us knew what his task was, which was probably the key to success. None of us may have been as special as an individual, as much as we tried to fit in better and contribute to the team. Vujadin Boškov was the greatest person in our football and probably the most deserving for the success of Vojvodina. Everyone respected him and he looked at everyone with respect.
We all know that at that time the stadiums were full at almost every game. How much did the audience contribute to that great success of Vojvodina that year?
– I have to say that over time, the fans started coming to the stadium more and more, because they couldn’t believe whether our results were accidental or not. Probably that’s why they came more and more to see live how we play and win. As we opened the season with great results, so the audience began to believe more and more in us. I think that the audience then knew how proud we were to present the coat of arms and the club, and that we dragged them even more to the stands to support us.
After winning the title, Vojvodina made a fantastic success on European scene by reaching the quarterfinals of the European Champions Cup. How difficult was it to achieve such a success, especially considering that the Old Lady knocked out the powerful Atletico Madrid from further competition?
– Until that season, the reputation of Vojvodina as a club was not so important. We were a big surprise in our public, not to mention the European scene. As that championship season progressed, we all gained such confidence that we never had any complex. It didn’t matter which club we played against or which players we played against. Although, the time was such that we didn’t even have that much information then, we just wanted to be better than the one across us. Maybe we weren’t even aware of that success, and only today can we see how great it really was.
Is there any special anecdote or curiosity you remember from that period? Which of the players had the role of leader on the pitch, and who was most responsible for the good atmosphere?
– That was the time when us younger ones didn’t stand out much. We had great respect and we were not in charge of creating the atmosphere, but that is why our reserve goalkeeper Veljković was special in that. He was a real joker and I can’t remember any special jokes now, but I remember that he always knew how to fix the atmosphere in the locker room. Pantelić, Nikolić and Takač were the main ones on the pitch – Savić underlined.