With the up and coming European Club Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, let’s take a look at the four representing teams of the host nation.
RED STAR JUDO CLUB
Judo Club Red Star is the oldest of the host clubs, founded in 1955 and has been operating within the Red Star Sports Society ever since. A pivotal moment for the club was when, in 1995, European medallist and Olympian, Ivan Todorov, took over leadership of the club. It has been an upward trajectory for the club, and since 2013, at the helm of the Red Star Judo family, as the President of the Board and the President of the Assembly, are Stojan Vujko and Ivan Bošnjak, successful entrepreneurs and owners of the company Millennium Team, which is also the main sponsor of the Judo Club Red Star.
In 2014, the young generation of Red Star embarked on a journey into the European sports scene. In the Netherlands, more precisely in Hoofddorp, they won a bronze medal at the European Club Championship. At the European Club Championship in Belgrade in 2016, they claimed the title of vice-champions, then in the Champions League 2017 in Ankara, they finished fifth, just a step away from a medal. Following this absence of a medal, Red Star have collected numerous accolades, In Bucharest 2018, Red Star were back for a silver medal in Paris 2021 and again in Gori, Georgia in 2022.
Off the tatami, Red Star’s first team, coaches, and management willingly and regularly participate in numerous humanitarian actions, whether it be regular blood drives or assisting vulnerable citizens with groceries and medical procurement. The judo club takes social responsibility very seriously and early in 2023 established an inclusive judo section for children aged 5-12. Physical education professors, former judo athletes, and long-time coaches of Red Star work with the children. The stance of the Red Star Judo Club’s management is that everything is for the members, everything is free, starting from training, schedules, equipment, to medical check ups.
Stojan Vujko, the president of the Board of Directors, emphasised that the management of the red and white club is guided by the idea of providing equal opportunities for their children to be involved in the community where they live. Vujko stated,
The Judo Club Red Star, like all members of the club’s management, consists of socially responsible individuals. We help not only through judo but in all aspects of life and sports in General.
There are over 900 registered competitors from the club in eight sections with 18 permanently employed coaches. In addition to domestic coaches, all with exceptional competitive experience and educated physical education professors, a coach from Japan with the Kodokan Institute recently joined the team.
Kikinda, the second oldest was founded on August 8th in 1968 as a martial arts club by a group of enthusiasts, with focus on Slavko Kosanovic, who had acquired his first knowledge of judo sport in Novi Sad before he moved to Kikinda and Bozidar Vukmirica, who acquired certain skills in Jiu Jitsu during military service. Established in a school gym on improvised mats, the club now has a significant area of 630 tatami with it’s own space in the Sports Centre, Jezero – Partisan, with fixed tatami and amenities including a gym and sauna for athletes and coaches, as well as a club office.
In terms of the club’s success, they took the champion title in the Serbia Super Judo League in 2006. In that way, they became the first team champions after the declaration of the Republic of Serbia independence. In addition to the afore mentioned title, the club has won 4 bronze medals in the team competitions of the state: in 1991 – the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in 2005 – State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, in 2007 – Serbia, and in 2023 – Serbia. Their competitors, Dragan Ciganovic and Jozef Detari, were bronze medal winners for the representation of Yugoslavia in the European Team Senior Championship held in Novi Sad in 1996, while Tijana Radic also won a bronze medal for Serbia in the European Team Senior Championship held in Belgrade in 2007. Dragoslava Zaric won a bronze medal in the European Junior Championship held in Polish city, Wroclaw, in 1987, while Filip Krizan won fifth places in major championships, including in the European Junior Championships in Warsaw, Poland and in the World Junior Championship in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2008. Tijana Radic won the fifth place in the World Junior Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2006.
The judo club promotes healthy lifestyles in the local community. Since 1984, they have organised an International Judo Tournament which gathers the youth from all over the region, with competitors coming from 15 nations. Since 2005, there has also been an International Judo Training Camp with over 400 athletes taking part from around Europe. They permanently support all humanitarian and educational actions of the Association for School Sports of Serbia and Kikinda Sports Association and are the participants and promoters of the ‘Small Fair of Sports’ in Kikinda.
At present the club have 102 registered members, with training carried out for all age categories with an emphasis on youth school due to the specifics of the local town. Kikinda is a town with over 50,000 residents, but is not a university centre, so after leaving secondary school, the members move to bigger cities including Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis for further education and typically continue their careers in a new club.
The coaches of the club include; Nemanja Milic, younger age categories, Vladimir Krstekanic, cadets, juniors, seniors, Svetislav Vukmirica, first senior team and sports director, and Jelena Krvopic, sports school for smaller children and president of the club.
The club was established in 1970 by founders, Gojko Pavkov and Stevan Obradovic, pioneers in Serbian judo. The club’s biggest individual achievement to date is the silver medal won at the European Championship 2022 by Darko Brasnjovic in the -90kg category. Also, the club are three-time national championship winners.
The city of Belgrade and municipality of Palilula support the club in tournament organisation where more than three hundred children participate, aged 8 to 16. The club also organises different programmes for youth like sports education, self defence, etc. Taking part in these programmes, the club can boast around 200 members and leading the team are Nemanja Tomic head coach and Slavisa Nerandzic coach.
As stated by the club, the main purpose of the organization’s existence is to practice sport at its best. The goal is to promote judo as a martial art and as a sport and to develop the principles on which it rests among those who practice it. There is great insistence on playing sports within school, recreational and professional level. Through their actions, they want to develop the highest ethical and moral values, affirm a responsible way of life towards nature and the environment in which we all live, respecting the principles of equality regardless of age or gender.
The fourth and final club will be OJK Proleter Zrenjanin with athletes including world bronze medallist Anja Obradovic, former European champion, Ferdinand Karapetian as well as double junior European medallist, EYOF champion, Miljan Radulj.
Author: Thea Cowen