You don’t need to spend much time in Belgrade before you grow tired of the terrible graffiti. ‘Grobari’ and ‘Delje’ are scribbled on most of the city’s concrete structures, proclamations of love and loyalty to either one of the Serbian capital’s top two football teams. Every neighbourhood in the city finds itself partitioned along footballing lines, and it is usually clear who rules the roost on every single street.
Dorćol is undoubtedly a Partizan stronghold, and a group by the name of Grobarski Trash Romantizam have made a conscious effort to improve the quality of the supporters’ graffiti. Starting as an outlet for fans to share Partizan memes, the group soon evolved into the artistic wing of the fanbase, with a physical fanzine full of poems and essays dedicated to the club and its heroes.
The most visible and visibly impressive aspect of GTR is seen on the streets of Dorćol. Starting in 2015, murals of legendary players were painted onto the dreary concrete walls of the city centre neighbourhood, lending a grace and artistic improvement to one of Belgrade’s most interesting districts. The legends of Partizan were depicted in their prime, complete with slogans and quotes from the individuals in question.
The focus was initially on Partizan players, but that soon spread to iconic figures in art, music, literature, cinema and the rest. Walk the streets of Dorćol and a plethora of familiar faces reveal themselves, and all are easily linked back to the Partizan ideology that GTR still vehemently believes in.
It might not be clear what Joe Strummer, George Orwell, Morrissey and others have in common with Partizan Belgrade, but dig a little deeper and the link is clear. Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War alongside Koča Popović and Peko Dapčević, two of the founders of Partizan Belgrade. The former is often referred to as the man who saved the Partisans, and the latter is another in the long line of famous Dapčević dissidents.
What about Strummer, the Ankara-born English musician who fronted The Clash? After moving to Newport in 1973, Strummer found work as a gravedigger in the Welsh city, although he lasted less than a year in the role. Partizan’s fans are known as Grobari, which is the Serbian word for ‘gravediggers’.
Morrissey’s link to Partizan Belgrade is less obvious, but the gallows humour he frequently employs in his lyrics sheds a little bit of light on the subject. The Smiths’ frontman has ventured into regrettable ground in recent times, but the romantic poetry of his early work still strikes a nerve with many. And Eddy Grant? The British-Guyanese musician famously claimed to be a Partizan fan. Little more justification is required.
The majority of the murals are of Serbian legends, of course. More than 20 can be found on the streets of Dorćol, the faces of Brana Petrović, Duško Radović, Srdjan Todorović, Tanja Bošković and plenty more presented in the proud black and white colours of Partizan. The murals haven’t entirely survived, however, and there have been a few instances of Red Star fans damaging them with the usual hastily scribbled messages of hate and anger.
The majority remain untainted, a creative and aesthetic love letter to one of the most successful sporting clubs in the entire region. The grey concrete of Dorćol is improved no end by the expert depictions of some of the modern world’s most creative minds and some of the country’s most talented individuals.