Yugoslav and Serbian football star Siniša Mihajlović dies aged 53

Siniša Mihajlović handed on Friday after an extended battle with leukaemia, in response to the household of the celebrated Yugoslav and Serbian participant and supervisor. He was 53.In an announcement, the household stated 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 identified 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 teenager with lengthy chestnut brown hair and a strong left foot made him the most costly footballer within the nation on the time.That season, Pink Star gained the Champions League, with Mihajlović taking part in a key function — first in opposition to 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 high of European soccer within the recreation in opposition to Olympic Marseille.However the good instances didn’t final too lengthy.Yugoslavia was already disintegrating in a sequence of wars that pitted the nation’s ethnic teams and lately impartial states in opposition to one another. His hometown of Vukovar noticed a few of the worst combating firstly of the struggle 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 into symbolic of the struggle crimes and ethnic cleaning carried out by troops backed by the Serbian hardline chief Slobodan Milošević in varied elements 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 — transferring from Roma to Sampdoria after which on to Lazio and Inter. In Sampdoria, he grew to become 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 high, 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 in opposition to 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 ultimate stint with Bologna in January 2019. A life and profession bookended by two totally different friendshipsAlthough he principally stayed out of politics, Mihajlović grew to become identified for his friendship with Željko Ražnatović, a Pink Star ultras leader-turned-warlord and felony underworld boss concerned in a sequence of struggle crimes and in ethnic cleaning from Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo.Mihajlović was additionally vocally in opposition to the NATO intervention in Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, meant to cease the bloody crackdown by Belgrade troops in opposition to Albanians in Kosovo, which resulted in ethnic cleaning and a couple of million refugees, who have been pressured to depart the previous Serbian province.He gained the Scudetto — the Italian championship — with Lazio that yr.In his biography, Mihajlović defined that he didn’t need to deny he was mates with Ražnatović — who he claimed he knew from his Pink Star days — as a result of it will 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 struggle” along with Mihajlović resulting from 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 struggle.”I’m certain that struggle can’t and should not be the one method of fixing issues,” he stated.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 stated, “and I’ll do it for my spouse, for my household, for individuals 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, nonetheless, 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 an announcement 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.