Children Flee Local Football Club over Politics

Total Croatia News

Parents of over forty children from the football school Libertas in Novska held a press conference outside the local grade school to warn of scandalous behaviour of NK Libertas President, who is also the Deputy Mayor of Novska. NK Libertas has lost all of the children in the youngest categories and the entire executive board of the club, all due to, as they claim, unjust layoff for a favourite coach

As it usually happens in the domestic football swamp, the local club fell victim to politics and local sheriffs whose self-will managed to upset the entire community, reported on March 5, 2017.

Mario Milašinović is a footballer and coach from Novska. Until recently he was the head of the football school and member of the Executive Board of NK Libertas from Novska, part of the inter-county league. Club President Vladimir Mihaljević, also Deputy Mayor of Novska, laid him off with an explanation he had violated the disciplinary code. Milašinović claims not only that this is not true, but that the Executive Board sided with him, as well as parents of around forty children who were withdrawn from the club out of protest.

Milašinović coached the entire football school, but was also a starting player of Libertas and an executive board member. The last three years he also organised a playroom as part of the club, all functioning without problems, as he told us: “I don’t know what happened, the President doesn’t have the courage to say. Everyone is satisfied with my work, parents and children, only he has an issue. And he owes me four or five salaries.”

He explained the background of the story: “It began a year ago and ended just after New Year’s when we arrived for an executive board meeting. We were due to submit a report on the winter tournament and income and he used the meeting to fire me from all functions. As player, coach, head of school, everything! The Executive Board told him this is not correct, he said I violated the disciplinary code, while the EB said he doesn’t have the statutory right to do so. If I had broken the code, the Disciplinary Commission would decide first, then on to EB to vote. EB did not agree, and when we met again, he continued his way, against the Statute.”

What are his sins? “I was punished for cursing out a coach and teammate, for telling parents he failed to pay my salary and for giving an unauthorized interview to the portal (a media outlet with which the club President doesn’t cooperate with for political reasons).”

It wasn’t just the choice of media which angered the club President and Deputy Mayor. In the interview Milašinović pointed out problems troubling local football such as a lack of time slots in the school gymnasium used by many sports clubs.

“All club presidents managed to procure time slots for their children, only our president didn’t. Parents asked me if I had lied to them. With two sports gymnasiums in Novska, their children have to go to Lipovljani, several kilometres away. It’s all paid for by parents and they can’t even get a time slot. We are the largest association by number of children, around 40 children. After that interview a letter was sent to the County to procure a time slot in the gymnasium. This, I believe, hurt the Deputy Mayor the most and then he fired me.”

As we have learned, Mihaljević had forbidden players to give statements to the mentioned portal three years ago when the first sparks began to fly between the portal and town authorities. Four years ago, when political battles were fought for Libertas, followed political turmoil in detail, which the town leaders did not appreciate, as they have strong influence on local media. Even the Croatian Journalists’ Society reacted in the beginning of the year to censorship at a local radio close to the Mayor.

To clarify, Novska’s Mayor is Vlado Klasan, formerly of HSLS who joined the coalition of Milan Bandić, and two months ago formed a new party. His first man Mihaljević heads up the club that was subject to fierce local political struggle three years ago.

“Mihaljević promised to solve the problem with time slots, but there were disagreements. Three years ago the club did away with membership fees. I warned them that meant over 28 thousand kuna annually, we used them to buy balls, arrange matches, pay for the children’s transportation. Mayor promised the town would provide 30.000 kuna. They came into power, three years passed, they gave nothing. And last year they reinstituted fees. I said, now you notify the parents, this was your election campaign,” said Milašinović.

“The Mayor forbid me and a representative of parents to attend the meeting, the Executive Board complained and Deputy Mayor stated he would quit the EB if I was there. EB members read the Statute to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. They voted confidence in me, with the Mayor and his Deputy the only ones against. Mayor then asked the parents representative if they could collect signatures for the coach to remain by tomorrow. And they did, and when they presented them, the Mayor ignored them. The EB resigned and decided to go public together with the parents.”

“I did curse out the coach. I apologised two days later, went back to play, we were fine. I did not curse my teammates, that’s a lie, they are my friends. Did I tell the parents that he didn’t pay me? I did, I was getting married and this is my only source of income. The cursing happened with the seniors – I play for them for free. And no one has complaints about my work with children. They don’t care what happened with seniors, they want me to coach their children.”

“I have been in sports my whole life, making an honest living. Out of 40 parents, if they were split, I would understand, but they stood behind me in unison. Not one parent expressed distrust in me and all the children are happy. Now this club doesn’t have three categories, they all left the club and joined another. We hoped until the end that something would change. We registered all the children in a new club, the county federation was very forthcoming, I thank them for that,” he concluded.

It is important to say that Mario Milašinović made unexpectedly good results with the younger categories in county competitions. Parents’ representative Dalibor Bilandžija explained that the club has lost 120.000 kuna after the children left which it received from the Sports Association Community of Novska. What’s most painful for Libertas is that it lost who entire generations of young athletes who will now build their happiness from the ground up.


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