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BELGRADE - The only former Yugoslav football club with international titles, Red Star Belgrade, are far from the glory of the past.
They are tottering and may even fold: their bank accounts blocked, players not paid and unhappy, the future bleak.
Club managers have failed to meet another deadline to find money to begin clearing a backlog in player salaries, with some of them reportedly being evicted over unpaid rent.
Two of the foreigners playing for the squad, South African Bernard Parker and Ghana's Mohammed Awal-Issah, wanted to leave last week, but were persuaded, reportedly at the airport, to return.
Their salaries, unpaid since January, were still missing though the club president, Dobrivoje Tanaskovic, promised to cover at least a part of debts to players by Tuesday, the daily Blic said.
Tanaskovic, who took over last year when the deteriorating situation and police probes into murky dealings led to a series of rapid management changes, estimated the club's debts at more than ß20 million (about R241million).
Amid all their troubles, Red Star may even fail to meet conditions for the licence to compete in the coming season.
Their rowdy, trouble-making fans this week came forward with an idea to help their side financially by introducing paid fan membership. But even if that comes to life it would likely be far from enough.
Believing the club is being intentionally ruined by tycoons who, so the theory goes, plan to cheaply buy the bankrupted club, the fans also want Red Star transformed to a public-ownership company, with a stake going to them, as in Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But this will have to wait for the belated sport clubs privatisation law while Red Star are likely to continue sinking, competitively and financially.
Red Star won the European Champions Cup and the Intercontinental Cup in 1991. Since then, they have sold generations of players, including major international stars like AC Milan's Dejan Savicevic, Real Madrid's Robert Prosinecki, Inter Milan's Dejan Stankovic and Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic.
But the money was misspent and misused.
Today's squad, which has 10 foreigners, is plainly overwhelmed by arch-rivals from across the street, Partizan, who, 14 points clear, have another title all but wrapped up. - Sapa-DPA