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Rajevac accused of divided loyalties before Serbia match
Milovan Rajevac has already had to defend himself on several occasions as to the extent of his commitment to Ghana’s cause.
But suggestions that divided loyalties might cloud his commitment to the Black Stars’ opening game of the World Cup seem underhand and divisive.
The Serbian-born coach takes his African charges up against his homeland in the tournament in South Africa on Sunday, prompting a handful of Ghanaian football commentators to slyly suggest he will not be 100 percent committed.
Although it is an issue largely ignored by other media outlets, it does recall the ugliness that followed the heavy defeat suffered by then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) at the hands of Yugoslavia when the two countries met in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
The 9-0 thumping in Gelsenkirchen remains a low point for African football and had life-changing ramifications for the players, who went from hero to zero, unpaid for their exploits and denied cars and properties promised them by dictator Mobutu Sese Seko as a reward for World Cup qualification. Many of the surviving members of that side today live in poverty.
Most of the vilification, however, was reserved for Blagoje Vidinic, the Yugoslav coach of the team who was accused of throwing the game.
He never worked in Africa again despite being the architect of Zaire’s only World Cup qualification and their last African Nations Cup success, also in 1974.
His place in the continent’s footballing lexicon should been one of honour, but a single, disastrous match result serves to have exorcised him and even left him a figure of derision in his own country.
But Rajevac will not need that as motivation to engineer the downfall of his country. Professional pride and a chance to make his name on the World Cup stage are surely logical incentives. But where there is African football, there are always conspiracy theorists.
PHOTO: Ghana’s soccer coach Milovan Rajevac talks to reporters following the FIFA pre-tournament workshop in Sun City February 23, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko.