Dragoslav Šekularac (Serbian Cyrillic: Драгослав Шекуларац, pronounced [drǎgoslaʋ ʃekulârats]; 8 November 1937 – 5 January 2019) was a Serbian football player and coach. Nicknamed Šeki, he was quick and crafty with the ball, displaying creative skills that turned a lot of heads. Possessing supreme self-confidence along with impeccable technical ability, he was one of the biggest showmen and crowd draws in the history of Yugoslav football. His enormous popularity throughout FPR Yugoslavia during the early 1960s transcended sports as he easily became one of the most recognizable individuals in the country. As a coach, he led several clubs in Canada, Colombia, Australia, Serbia, Mexico, and Spain, as well as the Guatemala national team in the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualification.
Šekularac in November 2007
|Full name||Dragoslav Šekularac|
|Date of birth||8 November 1937|
|Place of birth||Štip, Kingdom of Yugoslavia|
|Date of death||5 January 2019(aged 81)|
|Place of death||Belgrade, Serbia|
|Height||1.71 m (5 ft 7 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking Midfielder|
|1951–1955||Red Star Belgrade|
|1955–1966||Red Star Belgrade||375||(119)|
|1967||St. Louis Stars||8||(1)|
|1974||América de Cali||7||(0)|
|1975||Serbian White Eagles|
|1975||Serbian White Eagles (player-coach)|
|1989–1990||Red Star Belgrade|
|1992||Al Nassr Riyadh|
|1996||Busan Daewoo Royals|
|2006||Serbian White Eagles|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Šekularac is considered one of the most important players in the history of Red Star Belgrade, he is one of only five players to have been awarded the Zvezdina zvezda status.
Šekularac was born on 8 November 1937 in Štip, Vardar Banovina, Kingdom of Yugoslavia to Montenegrin Serb father Bogosav from the village of Kurikuće, Berane Municipality (the Vasojevići region in northern Montenegro) and Macedonian mother Donka (née Markovska). His father was a lawyer whose job took him to Štip where he got married and started a family. Dragoslav was an infant when the family moved to Belgrade due to his father getting a job at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Šekularac made his senior debut at only 17 years of age on 6 March 1955 during the latter part of Red Star's 1954–55 league campaign under head coach Milovan Ćirić. The youngster would record only one more league appearance by the end of that season.
However, the next season, 1955–56, signaled immediate breakthrough. In addition to securing a spot in the first team, he also became an integral part of the squad that won the Yugoslav league title in convincing fashion. He contributed to the cause with 7 goals in addition to many eye-catching midfield displays that would soon become a staple of his game.
By the start of the 1956–57 season, eighteen-year-old Šekularac had already made his senior national team debut. And, in November and December 1956 during the league's winter break, he represented FPR Yugoslavia at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Despite added pressures and responsibilities, he turned in another stellar league season helping Red Star to another title. He also played an important part in Red Star's European Champions' Cup campaign that ended at semi-final stage versus AC Fiorentina.
All the success led to coach Ćirić receiving and taking the S.S. Lazio head coaching offer position. In his place came Miša Pavić who previously mentored Šekularac in the club's youth setup. The season was not much of a success, however, either team-wise or for Šekularac individually. Increased opponents' defensive focus multiplied the number of hits and knocks he was forced to endure during games. He battled injury problems that caused him to miss almost half of the season as Red Star quickly fell out of title contention.
Though the next 1958–59 season brought continued injury issues, Šekularac, by now a bona fide star across the league, managed to lead his team to league-cup double, both at the expense of arch-rival FK Partizan. In 1959 after winning the league and cup double with Red Star, Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli spared no expense in order to bring 21-year-old Šekularac to Juventus. The transfer was reportedly stopped by the highest echelons of communist nomenclature in FPR Yugoslavia, with even the interior minister Aleksandar Ranković commenting that Šeki is needed in the country to "entertain the working class".
Šekularac is also remembered as the perpetrator of an infamous on-pitch incident in fall 1962 when he assaulted referee Pavle Tumbas in the middle of a league match. He ended up serving a year and a half long suspension.
He ended up playing 375 official competitive matches (156 of those in the league) for Red Star and scoring over 119 goals (32 league goals).
At only 18, he made his national team debut on 30 September 1956. He was on the national side that won the silver medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and also participated in the World Cups of 1958 and 1962. He went on to make 41 senior international appearances, scoring 6 goals.
"Do I remember that match? To this day, I dream about it. We had a great team that won over the French fans. Against the home side, I took part in one of the best games in the history of football. I was convinced that the trophy would be in our hands. Against the Russians, we've never had luck. It was like that in the final match as well. I remember that we missed a few goal chances and that the Russians at times during the match were totally inferior. That Ponedelnik however was without mercy. He scored on us and prevented us from celebrating our (potentially) biggest triumph."
He was quick and crafty with the ball, displaying creative skills that turned a lot of heads. Possessing supreme self-confidence along with impeccable technical ability, he was one of the biggest showmen and crowd draws in the history of Yugoslav football. His enormous popularity throughout FPR Yugoslavia during the early 1960s transcended sports as he easily became one of the most recognizable individuals in the country.
In addition to the swelling of praise and accolades for his skills, he also attracted criticism over lack of team play and overall attitude on the pitch that some found to be disrespectful to the game. Others point to his lack of effectiveness and a seeming disproportion between his talent and his overall career statistics.
Serbian White Eagles FCEdit
In February 2006, prior to the start of the 2006 Canadian Soccer League season, it was announced that Šekularac would become head coach of the expansion Serbian White Eagles, re-founded in February of the same year, with first assistant being Stevan Mojsilović. This would be Šekularac’s second stint with the White Eagles having already played for and coached them in the past. With seasoned internationals being brought over from Serbia and the rest of Europe, the team was set.
The stint, though short-lived, was not without success. The club was a hit in its first season, finishing first in the International Conference with 55 points and first overall (tallying both conferences). In the regular season, Šeki guided the club to 17 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties with a whopping goal differential of 66:13.
The Eagles advanced to the knockout-stage, easily beating Toronto Supra Portuguese in the quarterfinals with a score of 3-0 and also easily beating the Windsor Border Stars in the semifinal 6-1. The fairy-tale season was almost brought to a Cinderella end but the Serbian White Eagles lost to the Italia Shooters in the final by a score of 1-0.
In popular cultureEdit
- Šekularac was probably the first sports superstar in Yugoslavia whose fame transcended sporting bounds. The popularity he enjoyed during his playing heyday was such that he even starred in a 1962 full-length comedy feature Šeki snima, pazi se – a football-related movie built around his public persona.
- In 2006, a biography of Šekularac titled Čovek za sva vremena (The All-Time Man) by Dušan Popović was published in Belgrade
- In 2011, Šekularac (along with Serbian sports journalist Jovo Vuković) wrote an autobiography titled Ja, Šeki (I, Šeki). The book was also published in Belgrade.
Death and legacyEdit
Šekularac died on 5 January 2019 in Belgrade, Serbia. He is interred in the Alley of Distinguished Citizens in the Belgrade New Cemetery next to the grave of actor Božidar Stošić and across the graves of Ranko Žeravica and Branislav Pokrajac.
The Serbian White Eagles Academy was posthumously named in his honour.
Red Star Belgrade
- Yugoslav First League: 1955–56, 1956–57, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1963–64
- Yugoslav Cup: 1957–58, 1958–59, 1963–64
Independiente Santa Fe
Red Star Belgrade
Serbian White Eagles
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- ""PRE 10 DANA JE IZVUKAO REMI PROTIV KARPOVA" Vlade Đurović o velikom Šekularcu: Bio je vedar, ali fizički slab, maltene smo ga nosili..." blic.rs (in Serbian). 5 January 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- "Otišla je druga Zvezdina zvezda – preminuo Dragoslav Šekularac". b92.net (in Serbian). 5 January 2019. Archived from the original on 5 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- Večernje novosti (10 January 2019). "ŠEKI U ALEJI BESMRTNIH: Šekularac sahranjen na Novom groblju" (in Serbian). Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Alo.rs (13 January 2019). "Šeki, ovo je tebi u čast!" (in Serbian). Retrieved 12 February 2019.