When, in the summer of 2015, it was decided in the draw in Nyon that Vojvodina will play against the famous Italian Sampdoria in the third round of qualifications for the Europa League that season, many football fans thought that this duel would be just an opportunity to pay tribute and gratitude to great Vujadin Boškov, a man without whom neither Vojvodina nor Sampdoria would be what they are today, and that, on the other hand, the Old Lady of Serbian football has nothing to look for against an incomparably richer opponent on the pitch.
How that duel ended is well known to all football connoisseurs in our country, and it will probably be retold to future generations who fall in love with this most important side thing in the world. Today, five years later, the Old Lady is again expecting the third round of qualifications for the Europa League, in which it will meet again with a team much more expensive, that is, the club with which it is reunited by the name of a true football legend.
At first glance, younger football fans would think that it is Milan Jovanović, who certainly, as someone who made his first steps in his senior career in Vojvodina, wrote a part of the history of Standard Liège, but those better football connoisseurs will know that long before Lane, another footballer had already merged the two clubs, by being an indispensable part of some of the greatest successes in their history.
Silvester Takač, a member of the first title-winning generation of Vojvodina, for which he played 182 league games and scored 62 goals from 1958 to 1966, during his career also played for Standard Liège for five years, where at that time, just like before in Vojvodina, he was one of the best players in the team. He has been living in France with his family for years, but he has never lost contact with his home club, so he uses every visit to Novi Sad and Serbia to see his friends and teammates with whom he once wrote the most beautiful pages of Voša’s long history.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation regarding the corona virus, he was not able to attend the recent awarding of plaques to members of the first title-winning generation of Vojvodina, although he regularly follows everything that happens with his club. Therefore, he is happy with the fact that the Old Lady won its second Serbian Cup last season, as well as the fact that it is playing well this season too and recording good results.
– I have the impression that everything has been getting better lately, which was evident after the recent victory over Partizan in the last minutes. Opponents in such situations always say that the rival was lucky, but I think that is not the case. I know from experience that the team that wins in the last minutes believes in itself to the end, and has the fitness and mental strength to never give up. That is probably the result of the coach’s work with the team – says Takač.
When it comes to the coach, an interesting parallel can be made between the strategist of the first title-winning generation of Vojvodina, Branko Stanković, and the current boss of the Old Lady, Nenad Lalatović, considering that they both spent the most important part of their football career in Red Star. However, as coaches, they both won trophies with Vojvodina: Stanković the title of champion of Yugoslavia and the Central European Cup, and Lalatović the Cup of Serbia.
Judging by the memory of Silvester Takač, that is obviously not the only similarity between Branko Stanković and Nenad Lalatović.
– We won the league thanks to coach Stanković, because we trained much more than other clubs. Through those trainings, we strengthened not only physically, but also mentally, because just when we thought that the training is over, Stane asked for more, and more… That mental strength is very important – Takač notes.
As someone who spent five years in Liège, he knows very well what kind of club is the next opponent of his Vojvodina.
– There are Walloons and Flemings in Belgium, and Standard is the best club on the Walloon side. It may not be mentioned much, but it is a club where French is spoken and people identify themselves with that club. The fans are incredibly fiery, and the city itself has a special name in French, in the sense that its people are very temperamental. At the time when I was lucky enough to come to Standard, Galić was also there, and after a long time, the club managed to win the Belgian league and break the dominance of Anderlecht – Takač points out.
Memories of those times show that many things were much different then than they are today.
– The stadiums were full everywhere. The audience was very disciplined, so there was no fence at all on the west and east stands. They were just billboards less than a meter high, but no one skipped them and there was never a problem. Only in the last round, when we won the title, the fans flew on the pitch and took off our jerseys and shorts – says Takač.
With Standard, he won two titles in Belgium, and in the 1971/72 season, with five goals scored, he was the top scorer of the European Champions Cup.
– At that time, Standard was a strong European team and we played at the highest level. We had great players, among whom were the top players in Belgium. We dominated the domestic league and played in the Champions Cup, so I have incredibly good memories from that club. The fans, players and management received me fantastically. Of course, for me, Vojvodina is the number one club since childhood, but Standard has also become very dear to me – Takač notes.
Although he still has friends in Belgium, he poorly follows their league and football in recent years.
– I don’t know how Standard stands at the moment, but in any case, he is a very serious opponent. They are aware of their tradition and do not underestimate themselves, even when they are not in the best shape or have a slightly weaker placement on the table – says Takač.
The current Standard team is composed of 16 domestic and 14 foreign players.
– When the World Cup was played in Mexico in 1970, all Belgians from Standard were part of the national team. Galić had already left the team at that time and went to France, but other foreigners were also famous players at the time and also played for national teams. I spent five years there and was part of a great generation – Takač points out.
Vojvodina was able to beat a more expensive and well-known team than itself several times in European competitions, so this was the case in the 1966/67 season, when, in the Round of 16 of the European Champions Cup, the Old Lady eliminated Atletico Madrid, and Takač shone with his performance and goals.
– It is difficult to give advice, but one thing is for sure: players must believe in themselves. They have quality and should not underestimate themselves. When we played against Atletico, we already showed them a lot of respect on our pitch, because it was a team made up of great Spanish players, reinforced with some great foreign players – Takač notes.
Although almost 50 years have passed since that three-match against Atletico, he still remembers many details from those games.
– In the second game in Spain, they broke us up. They played fantastically and we barely got to the goal, so we lost 2-0. Considering how they played that match, as well as the fact that the third game was played again in Madrid, we thought we had no chance. However, before that third game against us, Atletico played a derby against Real Madrid and lost 2-1, on a difficult and a little muddy pitch. While we were watching that, we became aware that Atletico’s players are no better than us – says Takač.
Vojvodina won the first match with a score of 3-1 at home, while Atletico won the return match with 2-0. According to the rules of that time, the number of goals scored away was taken into consideration, but the third game was played.
– We talked in the hotel about how we would beat them, although no one expected that. They took the lead 2-0, but considering that we were physically and mentally ready, we continued to play and in the end we won. It was a surprise for me, because Atletico was an extraordinary team. That is why the most important thing for me is that the team believes that it can win, because it doesn’t work without it – Takač points out.
For that reason, he believes that the current generation of Vojvodina can also succeed on the European scene.
– We should not overestimate Standard, because it is probably no longer the level it used to be. In my first season there, four years after I played with Vojvodina against Atletico, I played with Standard in the Champions Cup against Real Madrid, when we won 1-0 at home and 3-2 in Madrid, which obviously fit me. Belief in your own abilities and self-confidence are very important – concluded Takač.
On Thursday night, he, like everyone else who loves the Old Lady, with his heart and mind will be with the guys who will run on the pitch in Vojvodina’s jersey, and they will, without a doubt, do their best to, with the most beautiful letters, write a new page of rich club history.