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Archive for June, 2009

I don’t think I have adequately represented the city of Kragujevac through photos. I have been here 4.5 months and shared mostly just my experiences within the city, with only one of my first posts containing some sites from the city (but that was an amateur job amidst the snowy season in February). I compiled some photos depicting the city; highlights have you.  Each have a quickly thought title:

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I write this post with deep regret.  The Kragujevac Wild Boars Challenge Cup run officially ended this morning when we received an announcement from EFAF regarding a situation that arose this week.  (The Challenge Cup is an eight-team international league competition pairing teams from Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia)

During the week our team management was unable to secure our team’s VISAs for our scheduled trip to Hungary to play the Gyor Sharks.  The Hungarian embassy is probably the busiest embassy in Serbia, as access to a plethora of countries lies north of Hungary.  With Serb VISA difficulties (I alluded to this a couple of times, but regulations on Serbs are brutally strict.  Serbs need a VISA when traveling basically anywhere out of the country in Europe minus Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Macedonia), our tardiness to the embassy appointment, and the sheer demand on the embassy itself, the Hungarian embassy decided they couldn’t process our paperwork this past Monday.  They requested we come back on Tuesday.  So, we did.  However, a minimum of five days is required for paperwork to be processed.  With our team scheduled to leave on Friday the timing would not work out.  They further stressed that it would be impossible to process our request for the approaching weekend.

We tried to use any connections or avenues possible, with a small glimmer of hope, to no avail.  By Wednesday we were pretty confident that we would not be making the trip north for the Sunday game.  But, we didn’t know if the game could be rescheduled or if we would have to forfeit.

Rescheduling the game became troublesome.  The Challenge Cup Final is scheduled for July 18th.  The Serbian championship is scheduled for July 5th.  The weekend of July 11th looked liked a possibility.  However, that is the weekend for Serbian National Team camp, as the Serbian team will be heading to play Italy on July 25th.  This appeared to be just one road block, as we later found out that the field in Gyor had already been reserved for another league game on July 11th.  Moreover, it is EFAF policy that more than one week exist between a semi-final game and a championship game.  The last news was back-breaking.  All fingers were pointing toward a forfeit.

This morning the head of EFAF, Uwe Talk, sent us an e-mail confirming our notion.  The game goes down as never being played, a 0-0 game.  Gyor advances due to our inability to travel (home field advantage at its finest).  Challenge Cup officially ends for us.

The Gyor Sharks (in white) will advance to the Challenge Cup Final on July 18th

This is just another interesting anecdote of playing this sport overseas.  A game doesn’t take place because of VISA trouble.  Crazy.  I guess I can add it to the “interesting things I’ve encountered” list I have been compiling since I arrived in February.

Early this past week I was thinking I had a maximum of three games remaining in my first European season.  That number is now ONE – the Serbian Championship on July 5th against the Belgrade Blue Dragons.  Although the circumstances are unfortunate for our team, we have directed all of our attention and focus to our last remaining game.  In eight days we take the field for one last time together in 2009.

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I learned a new Serbian word this week, under not-so-pleasant circumstances.  “Kisha” (KEY-sh-ugh) means rain in the Serbian language.  We have been hit with some intense storms this entire week and our fair share of kisha.  In fact, rain started during our game this past Saturday, with a huge storm hitting later that night.  We have had storms and rain everyday since.  So much for that sunny summer weather we had been getting so consistently.  Kisha and its accompanying storms shortened our Wild Boars tryout on Sunday night while forcing us to cancel our two senior team practices this week and a junior team practice today.

I took some pictures of our well attended tryout on Sunday night.  I would guess about 40 guys were on hand for a spot on either our junior team for the 2009 season (which starts in Sept.) or for our 2010 senior team:

Lining up for the 10-yard dash
Lining up for the 10-yard dash

The attendees getting a quick break with a storm hitting
The attendees getting a quick “break” as a storm hits

The storms usually roll in twice daily, once in the early afternoon and then again right before 6 PM, which unfortunately is our practice time.  Nothing like a storm hitting while you wait for your ride to practice, right?  Moreover, there is no telling when we will be able to get onto a field if even light rain stays in the forecast, as field owners are overly protective of their turf here in Serbia.  This is due to their notion that American football destroys grass while football (soccer) does not.  I guess its our brutal, American sport.

We got caught in a mid-day storm yesterday while grabbing a drink in the city.  I took some pictures on my Serbian loaner phone.  I recently figured out that a bluetooth connection actually exists between my MacBook and loaner phone, so I can share the pictures with you:

Camped underneath a tent in the middle of our city post cappucino & mineral water stop
Camped underneath a tent in the middle of our city post cappucino & mineral water stop

Caffe go-ers as well as walkers enduring the tough kisha
Caffe goers as well as innocent bystanders enduring the downfall of kisha

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Niš, Serbia

I traveled through Niš (pronounced Knee-sh; 3rd largest city in Serbia, just edging out Kragujevac) before I took off to Greece a couple weeks back.  I got in to Niš at around 9 AM with my train scheduled to leave at 12:20 PM.  In my 3+ hours I saw the local castle and some monuments.  Nothing too exciting, but enough to share.  Wait, there’s more to the story….

When I first got here in February I created a fake obsession with Niš, telling my teammates that I had always wanted to visit it and that I had heard it was an enchanted area.  Some took me serious, others did not.  Eventually bold claims were made concerning Niš, like it was a magical land that contains wizards and unicorns.  Whatever the case may be, my teammates are probably just happy that I actually got to Niš so I would stop exaggerating about it.  Here are the pictures:

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The team sponsored a billboard here in the city of Kragujevac for the month of June in hopes of promoting the sport of American football and our team. Until recently I had yet to get some pictures of the billboard, although I walk or drive past it almost daily. The billboard has a picture of Alf running the football along with a random cheerleader, with the saying “SAMPIONI SRBIJE” on top which means Champions of Serbia (alluding to the 2008 victory in the Serbian Bowl) and “Ponos grada” on the bottom, which translates City pride.

The billboard gracing the biggest street in our city
The billboard gracing the biggest street in our city

Alf came by early this afternoon and wanted some pictures of himself in front of the billboard.  So, I decided to take some of those pictures and put them on here.

"Hey, check me out" - Alf
“Hey, check me out” – Alf

Alf (human) grabbing a little air under Alf (billboard)
Alf (human) grabbing a little air under Alf (billboard)

Alf’s presence on the billboard is definitely warranted.  He is the original Wild Boar, having designed the team logo, our oldest player, and the 2008 Serbian Bowl MVP.  Plus, its hard to get anywhere in the city on time with him because he knows just about every other person we walk by.  In essence, he is the best option for the promoting Wild Boar football in our city.

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In a hard fought NLS semi-final game yesterday, we knocked off the Pancevo Panthers 40-27.  With the win, we advance to the Serbian Bowl on the weekend of July 4th/5th.

GAME RECAP:

1st Half

We drove the length of the field on our first drive and got down to the 3-yard line.  Stan attempted to throw an out to Alf, but Pancevo’s free safety intercepted the pass and took it 100 yards for the first score of the game.  Extra point attempt was good.  Pancevo 7, KGWB 0.

We get the ball for our second drive and once again drive the ball relatively easily.  Pancevo was really trying to subdue our passing attack and we take advantage with multiple runs.  Stan sees a crease and pulls the ball on a base run, going 25-yards for a TD.  We miss the extra point.  Pancevo 7, KGWB 6.

Stan outrunning the Panthers for a 25-yard run
Stan outrunning the Panthers for a 25-yard TD run

The Panthers put together a long drive, complete with a 4th down conversion run that is half a football past the first down marker.  On a 3rd down in the redzone their QB, Willie Sheird, hits their young wide receiver #7 for a TD on a corner route.  The extra point was no good, Pancevo 13, KGWB 6.

First down by half a football
First down by half of a football

We get the ball back and struggle to get good yardage on 1st and 2nd down.  Luckily in football there are four downs, and we take advantage successfully completing two 4th down and 8 conversions.  The last of which was a tremendous pass and catch from Stan to Alf for a 26-yard TD.  Alf went up between two guys, turned his body, catching the ball on his back shoulder right on the goal line.  Extra point was good, KGWB 13, Pancevo 13.

Alf going up to make this amazing TD catch on 4th down
Alf going up to make this amazing TD catch on 4th down

Pancevo again drives on our defense, as Willie breaks a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  They score when Wille breaks the pocket and toes the line of scrimmage drawing our cornerback off his wide receiver.  Willie throws a dart to the open receiver for a TD.  Extra point was no good, Pancevo 19, KGWB 13.

Pancevo kicks the ball out of bounds on the kick-off, giving us the ball on the 35-yard line.  We go to work with not that much time left in the half.  Pancevo hits Stan late on a screen to me, which aids the drive.  With under 10 seconds left Stan throws a beautiful pass to Tomic for a 10-yard TD.  We take the lead into halftime with the extra point, KGWB 20, Pancevo 19.

2nd Half

We kick-off to Pancevo to open the half.  This was one of the most interesting plays I have ever seen.  Our kicker drilled a line drive, low-kick directed towards the middle of the field.  It took a couple of weird bounces and hops, making it to their return man.  He booted the ball, then picked it up as he got hit by a fury of our hustling guys.  He fumbled the ball at the 3-yard line and Darko Cvetkovic recovered it in the endzone for an odd special teams TD.  Extra point was good, KGWB 27, Pancevo 19.

Both teams exchange a couple drives.  Darko picks up an interception deep in our territory on one of those drives.  At this point, our defense is really stepping it up.

After forcing a fumble, we give our offense the ball and we score in two plays.  Tomic once again graces the endzone on a 30-yard TD catch.  Extra point was no good, KGWB 33, Pancevo 19.

Tom and Filip sharing some love after Tom's 2nd TD catch
Tomic and Filip sharing some love after Tom’s 2nd TD catch

A couple more drives go by.  Stan throws an interception on a mis-communication with one of our receivers and Pancevo takes advantage.  They drive about 40 yards and score from 2-yards out on a power run.  Willie scrambled for the 2-point conversion.  KGWB 33, Pancevo 27.

With about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter we draw Pancevo offsides on a 4th and 3.  However, the refs don’t see it that way and Stan attempts to scramble on the quick snap for the first down.  He is unsuccessful and Pancevo takes over on downs deep in their territory.  Pancevo drives about 20 yards and Willie fumbles while dropping back trying to make something happen.  We recover and one play later Alf rumbles for a 28-yard TD run, breaking numerous tackles on his way to the endzone, putting the game out of reach.  The extra point made it KGWB 40, Pancevo 27.

Great team shot during the national anthem
It was a team effort in defeating the Panthers in the semi-finals

And that was the final: KGWB 40, Pancevo Panthers 27.

I have to give credit to the Panthers.  They were a much better team than when we played them two months ago in April.  They brought their best game to the field and should be proud of their performance.

Tradition — After the game there is usually a group of young Wild Boars fans who greet us and look for novelty items or ask for autographs (like against the Hogs from Italy).  Stan usually gives away his Wild Boars hat, only to replenish it during the week, and maybe some armbands if the kids are lucky.  I usually don’t have much to give away (although I have promised to give my gloves away after our last game).  As I was heading over to grab my bag after the game a group of kids congratulated me on the win and asked for the tape on my wrists.  A weird request.  I didn’t figure that any soul would really want sweaty, stinking, soiled 3-hour old black wrist tape.  But, these kids did.  So, I unwrapped the tape from my wrists and handed it over to the excited group.  I do what I can for the young fans.

Ogi and Sima showing off their muscles complete with WB stamps
Ogi and Sima showing off their muscles, complete with blue Wild Boars stamps

We will travel to Gyor, Hungary, this coming weekend to play the Gyor Sharks in the EFAF Challenge Cup semi-final.  Like I mentioned above, we will be playing in the Serbian Bowl in two weeks.  Our opponent will be determined tonight as the Klek Knights take on the Belgrade Blue Dragons at 6 PM in Belgrade.

Check out some of the selected game photos at the bottom of the post.

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.  Shout-out to my father, Joe.  He is a high school baseball coach back in Arizona and just completed the most successfully season in school history, taking his team to the state semi-finals.  Had a nice talk with him this morning at 7:30 AM MST, right before he was heading to the ballfield for a day of summer baseball.  Thanks for everything dad and I’ll see you in about a month.

My father and I outside of Wrigley in the fall of 2006
My father and I outside of Wrigley Field in 2006, after one of my games in nearby Lake Forest, IL

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NLS Playoffs

Tomorrow we will play in the semi-finals of the NLS playoffs.  We will be hosting the Pancevo Panthers, who advanced to play us after a 28-9 victory last weekend.  The winner advances to the NLS Championship to be played on the weekend of July 4th/5th.

The game will take place at Sumadija FK Stadium at 5 PM.

Some action from our first game against Pancevo on April 25th.
Some action from our first game against Pancevo — attempting an extra-point during the April 25th contest

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