Rugby league’s historical link with the Balkans received a further filip after Red Star Belgrade played the White Rabbits of Banja Luka on Saturday. The visitors led 14-0 at the interval and ran out 28-6 winners but the result was secondary to the match’s symbolism.
Banja Luka staged the first – and only – rugby league international match played by the Yugoslavian national side, against the France amateur national team, in 1961. Since the creation of the first club in Bosnia and Herzegonia’s Serbian enclave in June, the old Ottoman city has seen a surge of interest especially after the match at FC Krajina.
Sreten Zec, founder and coach of White Rabbits RLFC, was delighted by the enthusiastic public response.
“We gave our best and I think that the 300 or more spectators really took to the game and rugby league in general. Red Star is the second best team in Serbia. They have a lot of national team players, and we have proven that in a short time we’ve learned a lot.”
The White Rabbits will now negotiate a possible place in Serbia’s second division to sustain the club, while developing the sport in Banja Luka University and forming a Republika Srpska and then Bosnian rugby league federation.
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