Dragisa Pejovic was a special guest of FIFPro at the presentation of the Black Book Eastern Europe on Tuesday in Brussels. The former professional footballer talked about his very unpleasant experiences when he was still a professional footballer, and assisted in presenting the first copies of the Black Book to representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission.
When Pejovic spoke about the black period in his career, the entire auditorium was silent. All reporters and representatives of footballers’ associations were impressed by the words of the 29-year old former defender from Serbia, a frail man, with dark and sad eyes, who talked slowly and softly about the most difficult period in his life.
‘I am Dragisa Pejovic, 29 years old, a professional football player from Serbia. I have been playing professional football in Serbia for twelve years. I played for FC Borac Cacak for six years. During that time, there were always problems of violence and racism.’
‘I remember a match where fans of my team insulted my colleague from Zimbabwe, Mike Tamvanjera, because he was a black man. This was the first case of racism in Serbia and racism is still present.’
‘In the last year, I experienced a physical assault by a club director in front of the players, when I asked when we would receive our salary.’
‘I was blackmailed and abused when I received offers to go abroad. I was not allowed to go because some individuals from the club demanded money from me.’
‘For six years, many players were requested to fix matches. Anyone who did not want to do so was removed from the team.’
‘I played fixed matches, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I was forced by the management.’
‘If I refused to play, I would not receive my salary and I would not have funds to support my family.’
‘On the night before a match, people would be calling me. They would come to the hotel and take me out at night and drive me around for hours. They would blackmail me, threaten to pay me only 3,000 Serbian dinars, although my salary was 15,000.’
‘Several times I was threatened to have both my arms and legs broken if I would not do what they requested me to do.’
In the end, Pejovic had enough of all the misery he experienced at Borac Cacak. He quit professional football.
‘Now I am a player of FC Novi Pazar, on loan at FC Bane in Raska. I am happy that I no longer play for a professional league, despite the fact that I was one of the best defenders in Serbia.’
'I am also aware that I could never have made a better career because I played for the others and not for myself.’
‘Now I barely survive because I have earned nothing from football. The only consolation is that I am not alone. I do not know any professional player in Serbia who has sufficient means to provide the most basic requirements for life.’
‘Football in Serbia is full of crime and criminals and I could not cope with, nor fight, them alone. The criminals in Serbian football always look after their own interests first and use all means to achieve their goals, while the players have to keep silent and suffer, since we do not have any protection from the state and its officials.’
As Pejovic said, he is not the only player who had to suffer from bad management and criminals. He once had hoped to make a career as a professional footballer, a dream for many young children. But for Pejovic becoming a pro turned out to be nothing short of a nightmare…
‘Pejovic is a hero’, said Emine Bozkurt, Member of the European Parliament. She was also attending the press conference and received the first copy of the Black Book. In her reaction, Bozkurt praised Pejovic: ‘We need more players to follow the example of Dragisa Pejovic. We need more players to tell what has happened to them.’
- Published: 10 February 2012