Nemanja Vidic is currently the centre of attention following what could end up a club vs country battle. Serbia are likely to fail with their aspirations to reach Euro 2008 tomorrow, with Portugal just needing a point against Finland to secure qualification. Regardless of the Serbia result, their fate is in the hand’s of Ronaldo’s team. Despite being booed by his fans, Ronaldo will be eager to get the win and steal the show on the way to the European Championships. This will leave Serbia’s rescheduled weekend game against Kazakhstan meaningless, leading Ferguson to push for Vidic’s return to face Bolton at the Reebok on Saturday. Ferguson’s case is strengthened because the Kazakhstan match date is not a day assigned for internationals, and UEFA have confirmed that Serbia have no automatic claim to the defender.

Before this news emerged, Nemanja gave an interview with the official United magazine, talking of what it was like for him growing up. Vidic gives insight on what effect football had on the Kosovo War in 1990 and which footballers he looked up to as a lad. Enjoy!

Who were your favourite players growing up?
I didn’t really have an idol. There wasn’t one player who I wanted to be like. But there were many players who I loved to watch. When I was young, every game I’d pretend I was somebody else, a different player depending on who I had seen play well. I’d watch the match and then go outside and play and say, ‘I am Faustino Asprilla’ or ‘I am Dejan Savicevic’. I really loved the generation of Red Star Belgrade players who won the European Cup in 1991… Prosinecki, Pancev, Belodedic, Jugovic. These are the players who won the trophies for the team I supported as a kid. Maybe that team were my idols, all of them. Did you know Manchester United played against Red Star Belgrade? It was in the European Super Cup in 1991. Red Star played very, very well. I was only 10 years old so I don’t remember it but I saw replays when I was growing up. Now I have the DVD because one of the Red Star players asked me for the game, so I asked MUTV for the tape. I’ve watched it a few times now and I’m very impressed.

How important was football in Serbia during the 90s when there was so much political unrest in the region?
In the 90s football was everything. It was the best way to show the world who we were. At the time, there were a lot of bad things happening in our country – there were murders, bombings, war – and it was important that Red Star Belgrade and the national team played well to counteract the negative propaganda. It was the best way to show that Serbians also love football and sporting events. Today, football is still the number one sport in Serbia and everybody wants to play for Red Star Belgrade or one of the top clubs in Europe. Football is a big part of life for the country’s young people.

What role did football play during the war?
Well, some people say the match between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade in May 1990 escalated the war. There was a big fight at the match – fans tore up seats, some got onto the pitch, even players were involved. I remember watching the match on TV and seeing Zvonimir Boban kick a policeman, which caused a lot of trouble. At that time, there was a very, very cold relationship between what is now Croatia and Serbia… but now I think most of the bad feelings have stopped and people realise going to war was not the right thing to do. I don’t have a problem with Croatian people and I don’t think they have a problem with Serbians. The 90s was just a very unstable time and politics went very, very wrong. I cannot speak for everyone on this though. These events are bigger than me and they are bigger than football.

But football carried on during the war?
Yes, it was very important. Even while Serbia was being bombed, people were still playing football. Red Star Belgrade still had football matches and people were still going to watch the games, even though there was a war on. It was amazing! I remember when the bombing started and for the first month we were too scared to go out and play football because we didn’t know what was happening. Nobody knew where the bombs would be. But after a month, people relaxed a little more and they realised the targets were military and government buildings, or bridges. So then we thought it was okay to go to the stadiums and play football – we knew they wouldn’t bomb there. People still wanted to lead their lives and watch football.




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