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Gold, which Yugoslavia won in Athens in 1995 has a special glow, but no one had any idea that the then 9-year-old from Buenos Aires rejoiced as all of us in Serbia, and it was this finale that had so much impact on the life of him that they call him in Argentina - Serb.
When you listen to Diego Garcia Romero as he talks about our country and sport, in a very decent Serbian language, you can't but feel pride - because the reasons this political mentions why he finds Serbia so close to his heart are all the time in front of us, and we often take them for granted.
For him, those were triggers to follow everything that makes up our identity. Diego started from sports success, and he ended with graduating on the subject of Serbian status in former Yugoslavia.
He arrived to his favorite country in the Balkans for the second time. He made a trip around Vojvodina, in Novi Sad, Sremski Karlovci and on Fruska Gora. He will stay in Belgrade for a few days and then he will go to villages and smaller places, but also the places Serbia is known for tourism.
- My idea is Djerdap, Uvac, Djavolja Varos, Smederevo, Kraljevo, Sumadija... I have to plan it well, i want to see a lot of stuff. My best friend is arriving in June, to see how well it is here. The atmosphere is like home, believe me - said Diego with a smile, apologizing upfront if he can't remember some words on Serbian.
It is noticeable that he uses plural when he remembers the most brightest moments of our sport. We started from Athens...
- I remember the game as i am watching it now, and it was amazing. And the game was played on my birthday. That was the finest example of sports and everything changed in my life. The video was first short on TV, later on i bought newspapers every day to find out what was happening. I waited a long time afterwards to watch the games, even though they were not live. After basketball, i was attracted by football, handball, volleyball and water polo, even though that sport doesn't exist in Argentina.
He keeps the scores of games and the names of the greatest players in the head like true fanatic. He talks about how he loved watching Aleksandar Djordjevic, and he adds he is sorry that he could not speak with him in Cordoba last year, where our basketball players prepared for the tournament before Olympic games.
But, he did chat with the players.
- I saw them walking through the city, and i just year "Bogdane!". Bogdanovic turned and we started talking, he said "Wait, you are from Argentina, but you speak Serbian"? I took a picture with them, i talked with Teodosic, i talked on Spanish with incredible Nesa Ilic. They are normal guys, they were friendly, asked me if i wanted to drink something... Friends from Argentina told me: "You don't have a picture with Bogdanovic, he has a picture with you" - adds Diego with laughter, and he assures us that he will be here on this year's European championship, and that he will follow Serbia in Turkey, "where Stojakovic and Jaric became famous".
When he lists his favorite players, he mentions Djordjevic, Danilovic, Paspalj, Divac... All greats of our basketball, because of who he chose the team he will cheer for.
- First of all, the players i like the most played for Partizan. The ideology took a big part, because of the partisans who fought Nazis. I am not against Red Star, if they play against some other club i will cheer for them. And of course, Partizan is a school of basketball, the club that gave most NBA players. I am following Partizan because it is institution, and of course, you win or lose in sport. Partizan was not so good for some time, but its no wonder most national players come from Partizan. The situation is chaotic now, but i think that they have to get players. I am afraid that it won't be the same as it used to be - this 32 year old man from Argentina speaks with a dose of seriousness.
We saw that he is well informed with Partizan history when we walked by the stadium in Humska where Diego recognized the mural with the picture of Dragan Mance...
Logical question would be - what was he feeling during the finals of the basketball World Championship in Indianapolis 2002?
I have to be honest, i don't like when Serbia - Argentina are playing. Its like asking who do you like more, mother or father. I am watching but i am not raging around. Whoever wins, its ok, but its hard. I am glad that Yugoslavia was the champion ow the world, and that Argentina was second, because, basketball was not so popular. Not like football at least. But we had one of a kind team - remembers Diego with a sip of beer.
It was not hard on him to remember what were the favorite games he watched.
- Definitely, Croatia - Serbia 1999. It was 0:0 in Belgrade, and then 2:2 in Zagreb. It was crazy, Serbia needed one point to go to the European championship, and then the red car for Mirkovic... I remember i celebrated those goals as if i was some great Serb, i jumped around "como loco", as a crazy person. But the special feeling was watching the quarterfinals of Olympic games against Croatia. Literally, the feeling is unrepeatable, i was in a hall with Serbian fans, and when the game was over the the players applauded us. I had it all: Olympic games, basketball was my favorite sport, opponent of Croatia...
The only moment he cried because of sport had to do with Serbia.
- World championship in France. Mijatovic hitting a crossbar... Netherlands scored a goal, and believe me i cried. I never cried because of sports, but this was sad. I love Argentina, but i would never cry because of a lost game. That it wasn't fair. I still can't believe i sit and cried.
A situation not so long ago, was difficult for him, when famous drone interrupted the game between Serbia and Albania almost three years ago.
- Sports journalists in Argentina wrote back then that there will be war between Serbia and Albania, but to tell the truth, they don't know what is going on. Lets say, i know a reporter who is a professional, he told me that the coach of Serbia Ilija Petkovic Croatian, and i explained to him that he is Serbian from Croatia.
What makes Serbian sportsmen so special?
- Oh... Perhaps i am not Objective. There, lets say, Djokovic. He is not a typical Serb. For me, a typical Serb is talented but he lacks discipline, unlike us (in Argentina). That's why i say, Serb can win against anybody, and lose against anybody. And not just in football national team. If i have to define Serbian athletes, they are talented at first, rude as well, and they don't have discipline. That is character.
- That is why i often say, Serbs and Argentines are similar, by mentality. Serbia is like Argentina in Europe, even though some say that we are closer to Italians, but there are more things i can identify us with Serbs. Now, the time changes things a lot. Serbia and Argentina don't have the players like we used to have. I can say that Messi is the best player in the world, but he doesn't have the soul like Maradona. I think that situation in Serbia is the same.
- Now the basketball players have results, but i think that Djordjevis has that soul, that is why Serbia was second on World championship and on Olympic games. Trust me, i say that we are first, because Americans are not humane - Diego finishes his response again with a smile.
To show us how similar Serbs and Argentines are, Diego defined it the best:
- We criticize everything. Serb can criticize and St. Sava, the Argentine will criticize San Martin.
ARGENTINA LIKES MESSI THE LEAST, AND MANY WANTED DJOKOVIC TO WIN IN RIO AGAINST DEL POTRO
Argentines are emotional people, who doesn't forgive if you don't give your heart on the field for your national team. Sounds familiar?
That is why, claims Diego, they don't have pretty hearty relations with one of the best football players of all times.
- You can'y see it from here, but Argentina is the country that doesn't like Lionel Messi. First of all, he never played in our league. Second. Argentines are very emotional people, and they won't forgive him how he played in the finals of the World championship in Brazil against Germany. He was walking on the field. We like Mascherano more than Messi, because he plays with heart. If you don't have heart in Argentina, its like having nothing. If course Messi is the best in the world, but in Argentina, we still speak about Maradona.
But you still don't like Cristiano Ronaldo?
- All right, we can't. But enjoy watching him and Messi.
Diego said that similar situation is with Messi in his homeland about our impression that Huan Martin del Potro one of the favorite tennis players in Serbia.
- But everything changed after how he played in the finals of Davis Cup against Croatia. Before that, many around me wanted for Djokovic to beat Huan in the first leg of Olympic games. Lets say, my dad, who loves tennis very much, is a great Novak's fan. Djokovic is an example in Argentina, because we perceive him as a good guy.
Diego talks about corruption in football association with bitterness, and the fact that the national team is struggling with qualifications for Russia, even though it has rich history and the players like Messi, Di Maria and Higuain. Of course, he confirms that everything stops in the country when Superclasico is on.
- Ouh... when Boca-River is on, president can die, it doesn't matter. You life for the game, that is the cult. La Bombonera is a temple. I am Boca fan, of course, the greatest club in Argentina. The game used to be super, now it is declining. The best players were during the seventies. And now, the same like Serbia, young players play a couple of games and they go abroad right away, when they are in their prime.
I WANT TO SEE WHERE SERBIA IS GOING
Diego defines himself as Argentinian who loves Serbian people very much. Our history is interesting to him, he wants to study it.
- That history is long, but not just that. I noticed that not even Serbs know their own history. I wanted to learn period before Turks, but its hard to find literature. There is nothing on Spanish, and there is little on English, but its not true. History is written by winners. Its hard, because i have to learn better Serbian, and then to read. I know this official history of Serbia, but i want to find the truth, and to determine how globalization affects authenticity. I want to see where Serbia is going - said Diego, revealing that he even corrected professors at Faculty.
- Even professors called me Serb. I even corrected one, and told him not to speak nonsense. I tried to explain in my final work the status of Serbia in former Yugoslavia, what happened, not just in political sense, but also in social and economical. I had to read books on Serbian language, but the idea was to see here in libraries, mostly about the wars in the nineties, with special attention to 1999 and the bombing - said the Argentinian who reads and writes Cyrillic.
- For me it is religion, and who wants to learn Serbian, must learn Cyrilic. When i was in Belgrade six and a half years ago, now i see here is less of it. We have to preserve identity.
- I have to admit, i enjoy reading comments. Serbian humor is specific, and i can think on Serbian and then i really have a laugh. Serbian business...
He said that he knows Belgrade the best after Buenos Aries, and he proudly calls himself "the best ambassador of Serbia in Argentina".
- I won't see Belgrade like Paris or New York. This is an authentic place, but of course, Serbia must have much better infrastructure for the tourism to "get working", because it has a lot to offer. Food is great here, it is hard to chose what i like, i tried everything except rolled cabbage, because its not made now. Man easily gets fat here. They took me to taverns, and i admit, i like plum brandy, apricot brandy and vine brandy. Friends at home tried it and they told e to return home with brandy next time - Serbian Diego concludes his speech with great smile.
(Telegraf.co.uk / B.M. – email@example.com)