Commemorating a Disputed Past: Football Club and Supporters' Group War Memorials in the Former Yugoslavia

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Abstract

This article documents the existence of numerous football-related war memorials throughout the former Yugoslavia. Utilizing photographic evidence of these monuments, plaques and other methods of memorialization, it illuminates the ways in which those involved in the game have written the deeds of their fallen members into the historical record, often harnessing these sacrifices in the service of a variety of political causes in the process. These commemorative gestures include socialist patriotic memorials erected in the aftermath of the Second World War Partisan victory, as well as monuments and murals created in honour of football supporters who went into battle as paramilitaries and members of incipient national armies during the dissolution wars of the 1990s. It is argued that the deeds of the fallen have been elevated, and at times manipulated, while the creativity of the latest wave of football remembrance is arguably heavily influenced by the traditional epic poetry and mythologized histories of the region. The fact that these disparate memorials have survived from various historical periods means that the region's built environment offers problematic and conflicting accounts of Yugoslav football's violent past. Memorials which honour impossibly pure socialist heroes coexist awkwardly alongside those dedicated to supporters who gave their lives in pursuit of ethnically exclusive states. In the case of one desecrated monument, these distinct periods are somewhat paradoxically remembered by the same symbolic object.

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